An analysis of the alliances
One important aspect of the 2018 polls was the alliances formed by political parties. The 10 percent electoral threshold was effectively removed from the path of political parties that seek representation in parliament, except for the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
As all political scientists argue starting with Maurice Duverger, in presidential races the top two contenders always garner more votes than their respective parties. This explains why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce secured more votes than the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the CHP respectively, as well as why the Good (İYİ) Party candidate Meral Akşener and HDP candidate Demirtaş secured less than their parties.
Erdoğan has always received a few more votes than the AKP. In the latest elections, the share of the AKP’s vote declined to 42.6 percent, but Erdoğan was re-elected president with 52.6 percent.
A large chunk of votes that shifted away from the AKP went to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which garnered 11 percent of the vote. However, citizens who voted for the MHP still supported Erdoğan in the presidential race.
Bekir Ağırdır, a respectable researcher, talks about the “Three Turkeys”—a conservative Turkey (55-60 percent), an urbanized Turkey, and a Kurdish movement.
Yes, the voting preferences are shaped by sociology.
Erdoğan always garners 52 percent of the vote, not by coincidence but because he represents a sociological base as a charismatic leader.
Recall that when Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu challenged him in the presidential race as the joint candidate of the CHP and MHP, Erdoğan was elected, bagging 52 percent of the vote. At that time, İhsanoğlu, with the support of the CHP and MHP, received 38 percent and Demirtaş garnered 10 percent of the vote.
Nothing changed on Erdoğan’s front in the 2018 elections. This time around he collected 52 percent of the vote with support from the MHP.
Opposition parties shared the votes from a common pool of votes and this pool did not get larger.
The ‘Nation Alliance’
In the latest elections, the CHP, İYİ Party and Felicity Party (SP) were focused on “the rule of law and the separation of powers.” Those are very valuable concepts but those concepts are primary issues for the “urbanized” quarter of society.
For the people living in developing regions, the most important issues are making a living, salaries, wages, and public investments. The AKP’s propaganda was based on those issues.
Both Muharrem İnce and Meral Akşener made a lot of election promises but they failed to explain “how” they would deliver on those promises.
I had written before the elections that the CHP unveiled an important development model, “Central Turkey,” ahead of the 2015 poll. Kılıçdaroğlu called it “the project of the century.” This project was later to be accompanied by the “Anatolia Development Belts.”
Back then, I had said it was a good project that could attract foreign investments.
Did you hear anything about it during the CHP’s election trail? Kılıçdaroğlu mentioned it in three speeches but did not talk about it. İnce did not even mention it. Thus, the election promises failed to convince people.
“A bird in the hand is worth four in the bush.” This explains why the AKP appeared more convincing when it came to making election promises. The pool of the vote the AKP feeds on did not become larger but it did not shrink either.
Kılıçdaroğlu and Akşener
If the opposition parties had not formed an alliance, they would have a weak presence in parliament now. Kılıçdaroğlu played a key role in forming the “Nation Alliance.” He has tried to reach out to wider masses.
It is absolutely a success for Akşener that her party managed to garner 10 percent of the vote, even if it was launched only 10 months ago, as it did not receive any financial aid from the Treasury and overcame many hurdles.
She proved that a “central right” may exist in the “Three Turkeys.” But this could be possible only if the party has consistent policies, underlies the rule of law, and puts forward a development model.
In politics, actors should find ways to reach out and merge with each other by opening up windows, doors, and paths. This is how politics in our country can become more balanced and checked.
I will elaborate on this in my next piece.