How to review the Yalova and Ağrı elections?
Last Sunday, June 1, there were re-elections in Yalova and Ağrı, in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) lost in both. There are those who present the results of these elections as a general referendum for the government and others who argue these results cannot be magnified to nationwide conclusions.
No doubt, as a general rule, the effects of the local dynamics unique to the municipal elections should not be disregarded. However, from the point of reading voter behavior, it is apparent there were certain meaningful vote movements on June 1. In order to be able to read these movements, we need to compare the results of March 30 and June 1 in numbers.
Let’s start with downtown Yalova, near Istanbul, where the government used its entire means and mobilized many of its Cabinet ministers.
The interesting situation in Yalova is the turnout was lower than March 30. Invalid votes were less, which has partially compensated for the fall in valid votes. Despite the lower turnout, both the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and AK Party were able to increase their votes. The increase in CHP votes is around 2,000, the rise in AK Party votes is around 1,800. As a result, the CHP finished first with 228 more votes.
This result takes us to where the increases in the CHP and AK Party votes stemmed from. Let us turn our spotlights to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The loss of MHP votes between March 30 and June 1 is around 2,500.
However, there is an important detail. On March 30, the MHP candidate in Yalova took 5.3 percent of the votes, whereas this party’s city council votes were 12.9 percent. The CHP received 35.1 percent of city council votes, whereas it had 43.4 percent of mayoral votes.
This already shows that in March 30, there was a meaningful shift of MHP votes to the CHP candidate. This shift was further solidified with the second wave on June 1. A much lower percentage of MHP votes have gone to the AK Party, though.
There is another important detail in the Yalova elections. On March 30, the Workers’ Party (İP) led by Doğu Perinçek received 92 and the Rights and Equality Party (HEPAR) led by Osman Pamukoğlu had 80 votes in Yalova. Both parties withdrew from the June 1 election in favor of the CHP candidate. The sum of the votes of these two parties is 172. The CHP won by 228 votes and we can say this support from the ultra-nationalist wing has a meaningful share in this difference.
If the Yalova elections are considered as a mini-rehearsal of a run-off election system, then it gives an idea how possible cooperation models would work.
The race in downtown Ağrı was a stage of fierce competition between the AK Party and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). As it did in Yalova, the AK party sent many of its Cabinet ministers to Ağrı. Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also participated in the Ağrı campaign and supported his party. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed Ağrı voters just before the election, offering an attractive package of projects and services.
The turnout was almost the same in both elections. When Ağrı results are reviewed, Felicity Party (SP) votes remained almost the same, whereas the MHP, the Free Cause Party (HÜDAPAR) and CHP lost votes. Voter movement here seems to be from the MHP to the AK Party.
An important observation about the Ağrı elections is that no matter how you slice it, the BDP conducted an intense campaign to get an impressive result. While the number of voters remained the same, the BDP – most probably a portion of it from the AK Party – has gained new voters, enabling an increase of 10 percent. The AK Party on the other hand, despite having all the means of being the ruling party, lost votes after two months.
The most important observation to be drawn from Ağrı is this: All of the meaningful promises of the AK Party in terms of services and economic interests were not powerful enough to make a change in the results while challenging the BDP’s identity policy.