It’s not going to be an easy ‘Yes’ or easy ‘No’ in Turkey’s polls

It’s not going to be an easy ‘Yes’ or easy ‘No’ in Turkey’s polls

With around two months to go till voting, the million dollar question is whether or not the Turkish public will vote in favor of the constitutional amendments package that overhauls the political system and introduces a Turkish-style presidential model. 

All four political parties at parliament - the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – are currently working to shape a campaign process to influence the referendum result. 

Besides them, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will also carry out a referendum campaign, having earlier declared that the decision to be given by the people is directly related to the presidency. 

At a press conference on Feb. 12, Erdoğan hinted that current opinion polls did not suggest that the Turkish people “had fully comprehended the changes” and there was a need for a further push until April 16 to get a “Yes” result. It is known that both Erdoğan and the AKP-MHP alliance are seeking a clear victory in the referendum with no less than 55 percent of the vote.  

Polls currently indicate that the “yes” and “no” votes are neck-and-neck. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş has said this will shift in the coming weeks with the accelerated campaign process, particularly after Erdoğan gears up campaigning. 

That is perhaps why the president will travel to five Anatolian cities in three days this weekend for rallies in a bid to give momentum to the campaign process. He will visit more than 30 cities until the day of the referendum, during which the “Erdoğan affect” on poll numbers will likely be seen. Many AKP officials are quite sure that Erdoğan’s active involvement will give a clear bounce to the “Yes” votes. 

On the opposition side, the CHP took an important decision on Feb. 14 by announcing that it would not seek the annulment of the constitutional amendments by the Constitutional Court. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu reiterated his belief that these changes were unconstitutional, but said this time it should be the Turkish people who annul the attempt through their votes. 

The decision reflects the CHP’s determination to carry out an effective campaign process to urge the public that the adoption of this package would endanger the future of Turkish democracy. 

The AKP, under the leadership of Erdoğan, has won all parliamentary, local and presidential elections since 2002, as well as the referendums of 2010 and 2007. However, the upcoming referendum could be described as the mother of all elections for Erdoğan, and a defeat in polls on April 16 would deliver a huge blow to his leadership. 

Whatever happens, it’s not going to be an easy win for either side in April’s referendum. But we still have two months to go to polling day, and anything could happen.