The report card of 4 leaders, plus Erdoğan
Leaders of the political parties that will run in the June 7 elections have geared up their elections campaigns with consecutive public rallies, as well as media interviews, in order to reach more people and garner more votes, with less than 10 days to go until polls.
Instead of a humble political analysis about election results, let’s try to make assessments on the personal performances of each of these political party leaders and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who –although unconstitutionally- has been involved in election campaign.
Prime Minister and Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ahmet Davutoğlu has occupied the seat of the party chairmanship for only nine months; this will be his first parliamentary election. In comparison with other leaders, Davutoğlu can be seen as the rookie of these elections, although he is sufficiently experienced in politics. Although he has shown improvement as an orator, especially at public rallies, he still needs to increase his performance.
He became hoarse much earlier than all other leaders, as he thought speaking very loudly in rallies would make his voice better heard and polish his image as a leader. The disadvantage Davutoğlu has is that he is constantly compared to the real leader of the AKP, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A recent description by the Financial Times of Davutoğlu as one under Erdoğan’s shadow is an observation shared by many in Ankara.
Even the fact that Erdoğan had to roll up sleeves and begin campaigning was because of Davutoğlu’s poor performance, which failed to keep the AKP’s votes around the 50 percent mark. His rhetoric is not much different from Erdoğan’s, as he tries to depict the AKP as a life-time sufferer under the attack of a large coalition composed of three oppositional parties, the parallel state, terrorist organizations, national and international media groups all under the coordination of a superior mind. That may be because his political career will be more or less drawn on the night of June 7 according to the poll results.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is also pursuing a very dynamic campaign, holding four public rallies on May 29. The CHP’s campaign has been designed to introduce rather positive language, based on economic promises of the social democrat party. It has avoided direct confrontation or quarrel with Davutoğlu or Erdoğan, in order not to lose its focus; this has been largely successful in reaching out to the targeted segments of the society, according to party officials. Chairman of the CHP since 2009, Kılıçdaroğlu has obviously improved his ability to address the masses although he knows a potential failure in increasing the party votes will lead to a questioning of his leadership.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, head of the nationalist party since the late 1990s, was the latest in both announcing his election manifesto and launching his election campaign. He travels less and appears in the media less than the three other leaders. The AKP’s adoption of a very nationalistic and anti-Kurdish peace process language has not left much room to the MHP. Instead, Bahçeli seems to be focused on the massive corruption and graft claims against Erdoğan and his family members, threatening to send him to the Supreme Court for trial if he comes to power. Bahçeli’s performance so far is not surprising when looking at his past experiences in polls.
The surprise of these elections is the People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP) decision to run as the party for the parliament. The party has obviously come to this conclusion after its presidential candidate, co-leader of the HDP Selahattin Demirtaş, had 9.8 percent of votes at last year’s presidential competition. Demirtaş has introduced a young, sympathetic, humorous and charismatic politician that could also attract votes from the country’s non-Kurd citizens. Proving to have a good sense of humor and a positive rhetoric, Demirtaş has received appreciation from CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu as well. Under a well-crafted tactic, the HDP plans to steal conservative votes from the AKP in mostly Kurdish-populated eastern and southeastern Anatolian regions, along with social-democrat and urban votes from the CHP in the Western parts of Anatolia. Whatever the result is, the performance Demirtaş has shown so far is far ahead from his competitors.
Well, Erdoğan should also be counted in this list as he is holding his own political campaign as well. But there’s not much to say about him: simply Erdoğan, as you know.