Where have the 9 points gone?

Published 12.06.2015 21:58
Updated 12.06.2015 23:40

The AK Party, while having failed to emerge with a majority from the election, has proven that it has the capability to renew itself and govern the country for another decade

Apparently, being able to remain the only party in power without a coalition partner created stress among the intellectual circles of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). There seems to be a sense of relief following the election. Evaluations and criticisms that have not been or could not be made for a long time are being clearly reflected in newspapers now, which is an indicator of why the AK Party managed to be such a successful party in the past. The AK Party seems to have enough support to win the elections for at least the next decade, and the party seemingly has the dynamics to create a new beginning.

The departure point will, of course, be the latest elections in which this potential could not be used. It should be kept in mind that the number of those who approve of the AK Party's policies is more than those voting for the party. Besides, last November, it was measured that the rate of this support was about 55 percent. In other words, the election results indicate a nine-point decrease compared to the previous elections but also a level that is 14 points lower than the potential.

One should look at who won in order to get a better idea of why the AK Party lost. At least half of the electorate in the southeast and east of Turkey, who were previously leaning toward the AK Party, joined the ranks of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). The Kurdish population, about 80 percent of whom is religious, preferred a party standing for Kurdish ethnic identity, setting aside their religious identity. The AK Party's inability to understand their sensitivities over the Kobani incident and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's return to the discourse asserting that "there is no Kurdish question" influenced the results. However, the main reason was the fact that the HDP had an opportunity to prove its adequacy in the name of all Kurds by passing the threshold. Although not fully approved yet, the Kurds do now have a party that is integrated and belongs to Turkey. The electorate's attitude might change in the future but it seems that the vote shift that began with Selahattin Demirtaş's presidential candidacy has turned into a more explicit choice in this election. On the other hand, the net Kurdish voters for the AK Party were about 4 million. This number decreased to 1.5 with this election, which means five of the nine-point decline comprises the Kurds voting for the HDP.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is another party whose vote rate increased. Its vote rate went up from 13.5 percent in 2011 to 16.5 percent in 2015 and probably all these extra votes except the new electorate came from the AK Party. Half of the four-point swinging votes between the two parties, which went to the MHP in the local elections and the AK Party in the general elections, remained with the MHP this time. This section of the electorate consists of an MHP base with Islamic concerns and the cause of this divergence is not the reconciliation process. It would be more realistic to attribute this to the corruption claims and some administrational weaknesses.

The 21.4 million votes the AK Party received in 2011 decreased to 19 million. When the new voters are considered, the party has roughly lost 3.5 million votes, and this number corresponds to the votes that went to the HDP and MHP. For the final lost two points, we should look at who did not vote. The urban and highly educated AK Party supporters who belong to the new generation were not satisfied with the party's performance over the last year. We could also add the democrats of the secular stratum who are inclined to the AK Party to this group. Still, the majority of this group voted for the AK Party. But it seems that a part of them did not approve of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's attitude that put the government in the background, thinking that the shared wisdom of the AK Party could not be properly managed and this undermined the ability to act rationally. Also, they were disturbed by the fact that Erdoğan used every means campaigned for the elections. They thought that the grounds of legitimacy started to shatter.

Opinion survey companies suggested that the domestic participation rate in the elections might exceed 90 percent, but it remained at 86 percent. Also, about 3 percent of the votes were invalid. And it would not be misleading to assume that the AK Party voters made up at least four of these seven points in total. Even though all these forecasts need to be verified in the light of research, this is the case for those who have a chance to closely observe the AK Party voters.

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