Last update before Turkey’s crucial election

Last update before Turkey’s crucial election

The latest opinion polls tell us that neither the make-up of the four-party parliament, nor the ranking of the parties in parliament, is likely to change substantially on Nov. 1, a re-run of the June 7 general election.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) is almost certain to remain the largest party, followed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), but the HDP could secure more seats in parliament than the MHP because of its vote concentration in the predominantly Kurdish-populated east and southeast of Turkey.

But there remains a chance for a change in the outcome of the election this time round. Back in June, the AK Parti lost its parliamentary majority after an uninterrupted 13 years of single-party rule. Ultimately, talks to form a coalition government proved fruitless, which was President Tayyip Erdoğan’s justification for taking Turkey to another election on Nov. 1: The first snap election in Turkey’s political history.

Erdoğan does not hide the fact that he aims for a shift from Turkey’s current parliamentary system to a presidential system with more concentration of power and fewer checks and balances. After understanding that the AK Parti could not achieve an absolute majority in parliament able to change the constitution, Erdoğan shifted to Plan B. That plan is for the AK Parti to regain its single-party parliamentary majority, through which he can exercise de facto presidential powers.

The question is whether the AK Parti under Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will be able to regain its parliamentary majority. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the party had little hope. But especially since the Oct. 10 twin suicide bomb attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Ankara - which have claimed 102 lives so far - voters’ security concerns may lead to an extra flow of support to the AK Parti (as the incumbent power), particularly from the security-sensitive MHP base. The perception that MHP head Devlet Bahçeli was negative to almost all proposals from other parties after June 7 may also contribute to a shift of support away from the MHP.

This potential shift from the MHP to the AK Parti has prompted optimism in AK Parti ranks, despite the fact that there seems to be no drop in support for the CHP or the HDP. On the contrary, there has been a slight increase in the CHP’s poll rating due to the positive perception of its leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. 

The direction and density of the flow between the AK Parti and the MHP is not measurable for now, but it will certainly be measured in the ballot box on Sunday.

What if the AK Parti’s high expectations from the MHP are still not enough to secure a parliamentary majority? If it falls just a few seats short of the 276 needed to carry a vote of confidence, the AK Parti (encouraged by Erdoğan) could try to close the gap by wooing deputies from other parties before starting coalition talks with rivals. The option of winning over deputies to the AK Parti from other parties has been categorically denied by Prime Minister Davutoğlu so far, but if the difference between losing and keeping power is so close, you never know.