Is there panic within AKP, or is it an election tactic?

Is there panic within AKP, or is it an election tactic?

Three interesting articles appeared in the Turkish media on May 25, written by three journalists who are well-informed on developments within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti). 

All three mentioned a drop in support for the party, which could put at risk a single-party government after the June 7 elections, let alone the AK Parti’s target of 330 seats (out of 550) in parliament required to pass a strong-presidency-based constitution, as desired by President Tayyip Erdoğan. 

According to Yusuf Ziya Cömert and Abdülkadir Selvi, both writing in daily Yeni Şafak, and Mustafa Karaalioğlu, writing on the website, the dual nature of AK Parti leadership - made up of party chairman and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and President Erdoğan - could be playing a role in the loss of appetite among AK Parti supporters.

Karaalioğlu claims that, according to the polls he has seen, the AK Parti’s vote forecast has dropped from “around 45 percent” to “around 43 percent” over the last two weeks. He says this shows that the party’s grassroots want to give a lesson to its leadership. The AK Parti received nearly 50 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary election in 2011, and Erdoğan was elected as president with 52 percent of the vote in August 2014.

Is an almost 10 percent drop within 10 months possible? 

Perhaps as a pre-emptive strike, AK Parti sources have leaked to the media that Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan - who will not be in parliament after the election but who has a certain trust among international investors - could continue to steer the economy after June 7 as a “chief advisor.” That would certainly be a move to sooth Turkey’s financial markets.

It is a fact that if the AK Parti gets 43 percent, whether or not the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) passes the unfair 10 percent threshold to get into parliament, Davutoğlu could still establish a single-party government, depending on the vote share of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). But if the HDP does get into parliament, Erdoğan should forget about his “strong presidency” target.

Still, on May 25 Erdoğan delivered yet another speech about what kind of presidential system he is dreaming of. It has nothing to do with the U.S. system, which former President Abdullah Gül has praised.

This insistence is making Prime Minister Davutoğlu - who, in line with Erdoğan’s wishes, is actually demanding votes for a system without his own position - attack the opposition with increasingly hard-to-believe rhetoric. Davutoğlu said on May 25 that all “legal and illegal” groups were involved in a coalition against his party. This coalition included not only the CHP, the MHP and the HDP, but also the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the terrorist DHKP-C, and the “parallel structure” of his former ally, U.S.-based Islamist ideologue Fethullah Gülen.

This picture may be a sign of a panic within the AK Parti. Alternatively, it may simply be an election tactic to trigger alarm among wavering AK Parti supporters who may be losing their appetite for the party, in order to prevent it from dropping below the psychological 45 percent level. We will find out in two weeks.