What came out of the ballot box?
The government has lost a bit of the vote in the elections but not that much. If we take the situation into consideration the outcome is a success for the government. Opposition parties have increased their vote share by one or two points but this cannot be considered as success.
One of the characteristics of these elections is that it will continue the polarization instead of smoothing over it. My concern is that elections will make the tension continue rather than ease it.
While we had harsh and intensive debates about issues including corruption, why didn’t the election results come out differently? Looking at it from the eye of a sociologist the outcome is not a surprise.
Joshua Tucker, who has never come to Turkey but is a science person with an expertise in sociology, had nearly foreseen these results on Dec. 26, 2013, in the Washington Post.
Perception of corruption
Tucker and Marko Klasnja have done important academic research on the effects of the economy and corruption in the elections. In the welfare country of Sweden there is economic and institutional confidence, it does not matter who is in the government. People give a big reaction to corruption whether the economy grows or whether there is crisis.
In Moldova, a country with economic difficulties, people get angry about bribery because this comes out of their pocket! But they are not that sensitive to corruption allegations about the public economy. If the economy is good they do not show a big reaction to corruption. Because political consequences can disrupt their economic situation, unemployment can increase, etc.
They show a reaction to economy when there is a crisis in the economy.
In his article in the Washington Post, Tucker places Turkey in the “corruption perception index,” worse than Sweden, better than Moldova and wrote that voters in Turkey wouldn’t act as decidedly as those in Sweden but not as indifferently as those in Moldova.
The government would lose power but there won’t be a big shift. This is what happened. See how the perception about general economic stability is so important.
Another important factor as important as “economy” is “threat” perception, Tayyip Erdoğan used it very well. He depicted the cemaat as an international plot behind every stone; “the enemy within.” The pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) media was mobilized; conspiracy theories became the order of the day.
He used the “liberation war” rhetoric. He showed CHP and MHP as collaborators.
He said CHP did not change. In summary, if AKP lost, stability would be disrupted, the economy that has been flourishing for the last decade would be harmed, foreign forces will take a hit on us and there would be pressure on our conservative life styles...
Authoritarianism and urbanization
Threat perception, according to Stanley Feldman and Karen Stenner, both experts on electorate sociology, creates consolidation among voters, prevents loss of votes and increases authoritarianism.
This is what happened in Turkey. Prime Minister Erdoğan limited the discussion of corruption in the agenda with his “threat” rhetoric; created consolidation among his constituency against “plots” and increased authoritarianism by arguing for the need to take measures.
Yet opposing crowds perceived the government’s strategy as a threat, creating a counter “consolidation.”
This is polarization…
It will become more difficult to govern this type of Turkey.
Do you imagine we can enter a peaceful period after elections?
Erdoğan’s job will be more difficult too. According to MetroPoLL, those who said they will not vote for Erdoğan’s presidency were 47 percent in Dec. 2011. As of March 2013, this has reached 55 percent.
Blocks that see each other as threats have come out even more consolidated from the ballot boxes.