Erdoğan-Davutoğlu strategy proved successful

Erdoğan-Davutoğlu strategy proved successful

In his speech right after losing parliamentary majority on June 7 elections, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu addressed his voters when he said “I got your message.” Not only him but also President Tayyip Erdoğan thought that Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) voters had “given a warning” because of a “power fatigue” for the last 13 years of rule and asked them not to “punish” the party. 

It was Erdoğan who pushed for the strategy to give the AK Parti a second chance to regain majority through a re-election on Nov. 1 and it was Davutoğlu who implemented the strategy. It seems the AK Parti voters “got the message” and decided to give them a new chance. The AK Parti, who had won 49.9 percent of the votes in the June 2011 elections and lost 9 percent in June 2015, managed to claim back that 9 percent in the last 5 months and received 49.2 percent. 

If the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) could not have saved itself from the 10 percent threshold with a little margin, the number of seats the AK Parti won could have reached a level to change the constitution in the parliament, at least through a referendum, for a shift to a presidential system Erdoğan desires. But the 316 seats the party managed to get is well beyond the expectations of the AK Parti headquarters only a few days before the elections, which was in the band of 270-280 seats. Now Davutoğlu has not only secured a comfortable one-party government but also his own political carrier; he has shown that the party grassroots have given consent to his leadership style in close coordination with Erdoğan.

It was almost obvious during the last week that the outcome of the elections regarding the AK Parti targets would be determined by the vote transactions or interaction between the AK Parti and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP); its direction and density were not predictable. It is now clear that Devlet Bahçeli’s MHP has lost almost a quarter of its voter support in five months, from 16 percent to nearly 12. It seems many of those votes went back to the AK Parti because of a number of reasons, including the Kurdish problem; some MHP voters were happy to see Davutoğlu government’s way of hitting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) hard, which broke the de facto cease-fire of three years and resumed its attacks after the June 7 elections.

But the level of decrease in HDP support was not something predictable. There could be a few reasons for that. The resumption of the attacks by the PKK is a reason, as well as the PKK’s policy to unilaterally announce “autonomous regions” in HDP-held municipalities, which alienated some HDP supporters in the east and southeast. Another one is the HDP’s ceasing of its election campaign following the twin bombings in Ankara on Oct. 10 by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which killed 102 people so far. As a result, the vote support of the HDP has dropped from 13.4 on June 7 to 10.5 on Nov. 1.

Despite having less votes than the MHP, the HDP got more seats in the parliament than the MHP: 59 to 41.

The Republican People’s Party had expected to raise its votes by at least 1-2 percent from 24.8 percent and 132 deputies; they could only get 25.3 percent and 134 deputies. Its social and economic program, along with the moderate style of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, its leader, was sympathetic to people, but not enough to attract votes as Davutoğlu imitated his promises to working, unemployed and retired citizens; people thought a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. 

At the end of the day, the Nov. 1 elections, with its resulting landslide AK Parti comeback, proved that Erdoğan’s strategy to push for a second chance to take risks for the country and by shifting the focus from economic-social issues to a security one proved a success.

It is another debate whether this outcome will lead to Erdoğan’s use of de facto presidential powers; now, he has to take into account that Davutoğlu has proved his success as the leader of the party as well.