AKP-MHP highway to determine poll outcome

AKP-MHP highway to determine poll outcome

Research companies have been revealing the results of their opinion polls just a few days ahead of Turkey’s Nov. 1 re-election.

All except one predict that the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) will be around the 42-43 percent band, plus or minus 2 points. The outlier comes from A&G, whose chairman Adil Gür has claimed that the AK Parti could win 47.5 percent of votes and thus regain the majority it lost on June 7 by a clear margin, reestablishing single-party rule. If that turns out to be true, it would mean a rise in AK Parti votes of almost 7 percent in just five months.

None of the polls predict a drop in the votes of the social democratic opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which won 24.8 percent in June. They now show the CHP in the 26-28 percent band, despite an estimated 2-3 percent of potential CHP voters (out of the whole electorate) who are likely to vote for the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), especially in big western cities, in order not to let the HDP drop below the 10 percent threshold. If the HDP does not pass the threshold it will not be able to enter parliament, which will mean almost certain victory for the AK Parti and President Tayyip Erdoğan due to a complicated calculation method determining the number of seats won.

Both President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hoped that a resumption of terror acts by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) could make Kurdish voters regret voting for the HDP, thus returning some of them back to the AK Parti and pushing the HDP below the threshold. But this seems unlikely. None of the polls show the HDP below 10 percent and some even show it above the 13.4 percent it received in June.

No polls show the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) above the 16.3 percent it won in June, and it is estimated to be in the 13-14 percent band by most.

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s main disadvantage is the “Mr. No” perception he has among MHP voters and others.  In contrast to Bahçeli, CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was open to almost all formulas suggested by Prime Minister Davutoğlu after the inconclusive June 7 vote. Bahçeli also turned down proposals from Kılıçdaroğlu, on the grounds that he did not want to be in the same picture as the HDP. 

Bahçeli thought the resumption of PKK attacks and the government’s striking back, (shelving the peace process), could be to the advantage of the MHP, proving what his party has been saying for years and luring votes from the AK Parti to the MHP. It is true that there is transaction between the MHP and the AK Parti in terms of Turkish nationalist votes: Turkey’s Ottoman past means that Islamist and Turkish nationalist ideologies are not totally separable. 

The AK Parti also has a similar transaction with the HDP in terms of pious Kurdish votes. But developments in recent months, including the worst terrorist act in Turkish history, committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which killed at least 102 people on Oct. 10 in Ankara, have antagonized the situation and blocked the traffic flow from the HDP to the AK Parti. 

These transactions, or “voter channels” between the parties, are not one-way anyway. Rather, they are like two-way highways. The opinion polls fail to measure the true density or direction of traffic between the AK Parti and the MHP. It could well turn out to be a failure for either the MHP or the AK Parti on Nov. 1. Still, the MHP has the particular disadvantage of Tuğrul Türkeş, Bahçeli’s former deputy, crossing to join the AK Parti to become Davutoğlu’s deputy prime minister. So there is a probability that more MHP votes will flow to the AK Parti than vice versa.

Whatever the result on Nov. 1, it seems that it is the direction and density of traffic on the AK Parti-MHP highway that will end up having the biggest effect on the outcome.