What if Erdoğan is not elected in the first round?
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pretty sure he is going to be elected as Turkey’s 12th president in the first round of voting next Sunday, Aug. 10.
Hüseyin Çelik, the spokesman and deputy chairman of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) said during a TV show on Aug. 3 that according to their estimates, Erdoğan is likely to get 54-58 percent of the votes, when 50 percent plus one vote would be enough to get elected.
Çelik said the Party’s estimates show Erdoğan’s closest rival Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who is supported by a coalition of opposition parties could get 37-38 percent and Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a Kurdish-problem focused party, could get 6-8 percent of the votes.
As Serkan Demirtaş of Hürriyet Daily News wrote yesterday, Erdoğan and his supporters have started to celebrate his presidency even before the election, which they started to consider as completing formalities. The Istanbul rally on Aug. 3, in which around a million people are estimated to have participated in, seemingly boosted the early mood for victory among the Erdoğan ranks.
Yet, there is something not quite right in the air.
For example, if Erdoğan is going to win in the first round with such a clear margin, it is hard to explain the harsh language he has started to use, especially against İhsanoğlu, in the last two weeks. Before that, Erdoğan was careful in his language against İhsanoğlu, whom he had made a success story of for the AK Parti government by supporting him in being elected as the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Erdoğan rather attacked Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who backed İhsanoğlu’s candidacy.
Erdoğan accuses him of being “ungrateful” to him and also “incompetent,” as complaints from other OIC countries “like the Saudis” showed. But Hürriyet published a letter signed by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to İhsanoğlu at the end of his OIC term at the end of 2013, thanking him dearly for all his good work. The reason for this late aggression against İhsanoğlu does not fit into the picture if the AK Parti estimates show him some 16 points behind Erdoğan when there are only five days left before the elections.
Another thing that doesn’t seem quite fit with Erdoğan’s rosy picture is the votes used by Turkish expatriates abroad, especially in Europe. Erdoğan was sure the vast majority of the voters in Europe would rush to the ballot boxes for him. He organized rallies in European cities for that and mobilized a number of MPs to guarantee high participation of AK Parti supporters in Europe. Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah İşler admitted on Aug. 4 that the turnout so far has been at a disappointing level, though, not as low as 5 percent as reported by media.
And there are those splits from Erdoğan’s ranks; from Gülenists to MPs of Kurdish origin. The attitude of the Gülenists is understandable, as it represents a major ideological and political fight within the Islamic grassroots. But the Kurdish origin deputies’ distancing themselves from Erdoğan, when Erdoğan is seemingly committed to the continuation of the Kurdish peace dialogue and as his popularity is on rise with 1-million-people rallies is not something that can be explained easily.
So, despite the majority of public opinion polls showing Erdoğan’s win on the first round, it is worth thinking about “what if not,” as an intellectual exercise.
There will be another Turkey in which Erdoğan might have troubles to set his own rule, even if he wins on the first round anyway, but that is not the issue now. What if Erdoğan cannot manage to get 50 percent in the first round?
One can see there could be a totally new set of circumstances in the Turkish political spectrum with brand new alliances and opportunities to be embodied for the second round on Aug. 24.
It does not seem likely for the time being, but it worth giving a thought to for a minute.