April 7, 2015 marked the deadline for political parties to submit their list of nominees for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Although the campaign strategies of all parties receive a certain amount of attention from the media and political commentators, the most closely watched aspect of the 2015 parliamentary elections will be the Kurdish political movement's ambitious goal of passing the 10-percent national threshold. A lot of speculation goes around on social media outlets and elsewhere, but it is important to note that Turkey's political landscape remains dominated by identity politics.
Encouraged by Selahattin Demirtaş's relatively successful presidential campaign, the Kurdish political movement announced that the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), rather than independent candidates, would participate in the race – which would boost the size of the HDP caucus at the Turkish Parliament. How the HDP will perform in the upcoming elections attracts attention due to several reasons: First and foremost, the HDP's performance will directly affect the number of seats claimed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) since the parliamentary races in the southeast have effectively turned into a zero-sum game between the two movements in recent elections. Moreover, a dramatic increase in the Kurdish political movement's popularity would put pressure on the Republican People's Party (CHP), whose liberal wing and Alevi supporters represent part of the HDP's target audience. In other words, the party's performance might have repercussions for mainstream political parties.
In 2011, the distribution of votes among the top four political parties was as follows: Justice and Development Party received 49.83 percent of the vote to win another landslide victory and delivered its best performance in a parliamentary election. The CHP attracted 25.98 percent of the vote, which represented a 5 percent increase from the 2007 elections but fell short of breaking the 30 percent mark. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) witnessed some decline in its popularity to claim approximately 13 percent of the vote. Finally, the Kurdish political movement, whose candidates participated in local races as independents only to re-join the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) after the elections, received 6.57 percent of the vote.In mid-2013, the AK Party government found itself at the target of the Gezi Park protests. Months later, the Gülen Movement officially severed their ties with the party leadership over a proposed law to shut down university preparation courses, a source of new recruits for the organization. Despite widespread speculation that the government would not survive the March 2014 local elections and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would be unable to win the August 2014 presidential race, the Justice and Development Party maintained its popularity. A series of opinion polls since former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu took over as chairman and prime minister suggest that the party's popularity remains in the high 40s.
Four years later, the distribution of votes remains largely the same: According to İbrahim Uslu, who leads ANAR polling company, the AK Party will receive 47-48 percent of the vote on June 7. While the CHP is expected to claim 23 to 25 percent of the vote, the MHP will presumably receive 14-16 percent. Finally, the HDP remains below the 10-percent threshold – which would mean that the AK Party would claim 370+ seats in Parliament.
The prominence of identity politics in Turkey accounts for the limited amount of change in electoral behavior. Although major developments have occurred since the most recent parliamentary elections, the distribution of votes remains largely unaltered. Over the next couple of months, there will be a lot of speculation regarding the parties' projected performances, but, at the end of the day, the vast majority of Turkey's voters are unlikely to reconsider their choices.