Turkish nationalists stand aloof from İhsanoğlu

Published 11.07.2014 00:22

Turkey's two most prominent opposition political parties that were vanquished one after the other by the AK Party, are participating in Turkey's first popular presidential election, and will be represented by a common candidate.

Indeed, there is no way for the opposition to come out ahead other than participating in the elections with a joint candidate. According to a recent survey by GENAR in June 2014, while the Republican People's Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and Felicity Party (SP) would win 26 percent, 14 percent, 7 percent and 3 percent respectively in the event of an immediate general election, the AK Party would take 49 percent. Thus, it is not surprising that opposition political parties are for a resolution for their ever-lasting electoral deadlock.

In comparison to the estimated voting rates of political parties in a general election, the electoral support bases of the three presidential candidates are 55.2 percent for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 35.8 percent for joint candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu and 9 percent for HDP candidate Selahattin Demirtaş. In this respect, while the entire electorate of the two major oppositional political parties that nominated a common candidate will not vote for their own candidates, both Erdoğan and Demirtaş will also take votes from outside their own political constituency.

In a poll on the 2010 constitutional referendum held by GENAR, participants were asked about the stances of political parties before the referendum, when the CHP and MHP campaigned for the vote "No!" while the AK Party supported the option "Yes!" The constitutional amendments were adopted with 58 percent of voters casting their ballots for the changes to the national charter and 42 percent against. According to the aforementioned research, 25 percent of the MHP's electorate and 10 percent of the CHP's electorate voted "Yes." Thus, while opposition political parties were campaigning against the constitutional amendments, a significant portion of their electorate supported the AK Party's constitutional initiative.

The presidential election shares a common structural characteristic with a referendum. In contrast to general elections, the constituency does not necessarily behave in line with the wishes of the presidents of political parties in such popular elections. The electoral loyalty of the voters of the CHP and MHP respectively fluctuates over 80 percent and 70 percent. Thus, their flexible voters could lean toward the Erdoğan and the HDP's candidate Demirtaş. In the last two decades, it has been rightfully claimed that the conservative electorate has widened in Turkey.

However, a significant change also was observed in the context of nationalism and allegiance to national values. The anti-communist discourse of racist nationalism of the 1970s was replaced with the democratic values of patriotism that solely struggle for the interests of the country and the nation.

In the formation process of such a comprehensive transformation, the recent strengthening of the Turkish state played a significant role.
This new patriotic electorate has displayed a flexible electoral attitude notwithstanding of their political allegiance.

This nationalist constituency, who grasp the fact that the joint candidate İhsanoğlu is being supported by certain international powers including Fethullah Gülen, desires to show their patriotic stance by supporting the most national and native one of the present candidates, Erdoğan.

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