Three big parties at risk of dropping out of Turkish Parliament in next election: Pollster
İpek Özbey - ISTANBUL
Three key parties, including two currently represented at the Turkish Parliament, risk falling below the 10 percent threshold in the next parliamentary election, according to Bekir Ağırdır, the general director of respected polling company Konda.
“The national election threshold problem exists for three parties – the İYİ [Good] Party, the [Nationalist Movement Party] MHP and the [Peoples’ Democratic Party] HDP. But despite all its weaknesses the HDP’s chance of entering parliament is still higher than the İYİ Party or the MHP,” Ağırdır told daily Hürriyet in an interview over the weekend.
Political parties that fail to win more than 10 percent votes in national parliamentary elections cannot be represented at parliament according to Turkey’s existing Election Law. The election threshold is the world’s highest and was first introduced by the military junta after the 1980 coup d’état.
Discussion over the threshold was revived after MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli announced that his party will not present a candidate for 2019 presidential elections and will instead support the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) nominee, current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Ağırdır said the alliance between the MHP and the AKP will “allow the former to continue as a political institution,” receiving Treasury grants allocated for political parties that win at least 7 percent of the vote in elections.
MHP head Bahçeli has sought to justify explains his party’s alliance with the AKP as a nationalist convergence for the survival of the country against multiple terrorist organizations, but Ağırdır expressed skepticism.
“At a moment when the potential arrest of the leader of the main opposition is being widely discussed and when another [opposition] leader [HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş] is already in jail, rhetoric about being ‘national and local’ is only pouring fuel on the flames,” he said.
Demirtaş has been in jail since November 2016 and faces over a hundred years in jail of “terror” charges. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been subjected to numerous judicial investigations.
‘AKP-MHP grassroots getting closer’
Ağırdır also suggested that the grassroots of the AKP and MHP have started to come closer to each other in the last four years.
“Although both parties’ roots have always had similar cultural codes, their political stances were different from each other until around 2013 and 2014. Then the expansion of the AKP’s politics undermined the MHP’s political ground and sociological roots,” he said.
“The MHP already had an ideological problem: Is it possible to deal with the Kurdish issue only by referring to terror in today’s Turkey? Does it feel the need to renew its views? No. Ultimately the AKP was able to expand its scope while the MHP came to a deadlock,” Ağırdır said.
On divisions in the MHP base, the Konda head estimated that around two-thirds of MHP voters opted against the shift to an executive presidential system in the April 2017 referendum. Amid the split, many MHP dissidents decided to split away to form the İYİ Party, but Ağırdır said it was still not clear whether it would be able to cross the 10 percent threshold.
‘AKP eying MHP and Felicity Party votes’
He also suggested that the AKP was looking to woo voters of the small religious Felicity Party (SP). However, its alliance with the MHP risked alienating voters of Kurdish origin, many of whom currently vote for the AKP, and Ağırdır said many conservative Kurds will not abandon the HDP in the upcoming elections.
“Let’s say there are 10 Kurdish voters. Up to and including the 2011 election around five of them have been voting for the AK Party, four of them voted for the HDP and one of them did not vote. What changed in the 2015 election is that out of this 10 voters, seven of them voted for the HDP and three of them voted for the AKP,” he said.
“If you ask me whether the AKP’s alliance with the MHP will affect the [AKP’s] votes among Kurdish-origin voters, I would say maybe it will receive one vote less from these 10 voters. But at the same time it could attract one more additional vote, as a result of dissatisfaction with the urban warfare [conducted by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party after the peace process broke down in 2015] in the southeast,” Ağırdır added.