AK Party on its way to being a center party

Published 10.11.2015 02:09

The AK Party has the opportunity to be an umbrella that encompasses all segments of the society despite their ideological differences

It is evident that the liberal and left-wing media outlets have come to the point of rediscovering the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Apparently, it was a major psychological relief when the AK Party's vote share declined to 41 percent in the June 7 elections. And now some slight efforts are observable to grasp the situation. For instance, why the AK Party received votes from both the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) supporters is one of the frequently asked questions. But AK Party voters moved toward both the MHP and HDP on June 7, which did not surprise anyone. So why would it be a surprise if the AK Party received votes from both parties on Nov. 1? The characteristics of the AK Party do not stem from the ideology attributed to it. Even for its own voters, Islamic identity is the fourth factor among their reasons of voting for the party, and in every survey this factor has a rate below 20 percent. The main reasons of this party's all-encompassing characteristics include its ability to resolve problems, its target of integration with the world and its potential and intention to build a future. As the June 7 example showed, the AK party can lose votes if it diverges from this. And when the party could give the message that it embraced and focused on those abilities again, it enjoyed votes from the both ends of the nationalist spectrum.

However, one more phenomenon that was not experienced before was seen in Nov. 1 elections. About 1 percent or 2 percent of Republican People's Party (CHP) voters on the west coast of the country seemingly voted for the AK Party. The total votes for CHP do not reflect this since it seems that a similar amount of votes shifted from the MHP to the CHP in that region. This could have two reasons. Firstly, the AK Party displayed a determined stance against the terrorist assaults of the PKK and people saw that the government could control bureaucracy during this period. The second reason is that no matter who was in charge, the coalition negotiations after June 7 did not succeed, creating an uncertainty in both the economy and politics. Briefly, it seems that some CHP voters opted for the AK Party since they saw the importance of stability and wanted the ongoing instability to cease. While making this choice, they seem to have assumed that stability could be attained only through a single-party government, and the AK Party is expected to take some steps to solidify stability.

Consequently, the AK Party is now a center both in social and political terms. The expanding and strengthening middle class turned the AK Party's base into a heterogeneous group with various identities. Now the party has a chance to become an umbrella that would encompass ideological differences. The performance of the government over the next two years will make many people reconsider the AK Party and develop a new idea about the party. If the AK Party successfully passes this test, its vote share could even rise up to between 50 percent and 55 percent. If it does not pass, then it would return to its natural vote share, which is around 45 percent.

This analysis must alarm the opposition parties since the AK Party has no obstacle that would hinder an increase in its votes. As long as reforms of normalization and democratization continue, the gap between the AK Party and other parties might become even more distinct. The opposition parties' urges to stand up against the government have the possibility to lead them to anti-democratic stances. On the other hand, the AK Party will not be able not seize this potential if it acts impetuously or irresponsibly. The economy is probably one of the main topics that requires focused attention. If the government diverges from the economic norms of the world and comes to be perceived as a cause of instability in markets, the party could even experience some loss of votes. Similarly, it might be disadvantaged if it presents a perfunctory presidential system that does not have internal consistency. The AK Party holds the reins, and as such it will decorate its own fate.

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