Blocs emerge ahead of Turkey's June 2018 elections

Published 02.05.2018 23:53

The brand new opposition bloc for the upcoming elections will face some serious challenges, most critically that the member parties have very different voter bases

Turkey will hold early elections on June 24 when millions of voters will pick the country's next president and select their representatives for Parliament.

In the country, where voter turnout rates are consistently higher than in Europe and the United States, there is a lot of excitement in the air for the upcoming vote. Steps taken to facilitate the participation of certain opposition parties, which could not meet legal criteria to compete in the past, along with the introduction of electoral alliances, will presumably contribute to political participation and voter turnout.

In addition to a number of political parties and independent candidates, two major blocs will compete in the upcoming elections.

The first major bloc, the People's Alliance, consists of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has been in power for 16 years, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a prominent opposition movement. It is supported by the Great Union Party (BBP), which enjoys considerable support among Turkey's nationalists. The People's Alliance supports incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the presidential election, which he won in 2014 with 52 percent of the vote. The AK Party, chaired by Mr. Erdoğan, received 49.5 percent in the most recent parliamentary election. In the same race, the MHP won 11.9 percent of the vote – compared to the BBP's 0.54 percent.

The opposing bloc, which formally emerged on Tuesday evening, features the Republican People's Party (CHP), which is mainly supported by the middle and upper classes, the recently formed populist Good Party (İP), the marginal, Islamist-conservative Felicity Party (SP) and the practically-nonexistent Democrat Party (DP). Here's how those parties fared in the 2015 parliamentary election: The CHP received 25.3 percent – compared to the SP's 0.68 percent and the DP's 0.15 percent. The Good Party, which shares the same base as the CHP and the MHP, reportedly enjoys the support of 7 to 8 percent of the electorate. Provided that the İP will lure away voters from both blocs, its impact on the broader race is expected to be limited.

The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which was able to claim some parliamentary seats by receiving 10.7 percent of the vote in November 2015, hasn't assumed a clear position yet. The movement, which is largely considered the political wing of the terrorist organization PKK, is expected to launch its own presidential campaign. But it's too early to rule out an agreement between the HDP and the second (yet unnamed) bloc.

Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of both blocs, it is possible to reach the following conclusions:The political parties that jointly formed the People's Alliance share the same voter base. They have repeatedly worked together since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and joined forces ahead of the April 2017 constitutional referendum. Another important point is that the alliance's presidential candidate has been clear for months.

Things are a little more complicated for the other bloc. The CHP considers itself a left-leaning political party, whereas the İP is a nationalist movement. Meanwhile, the SP's voter base is the exact opposite of CHP supporters, who are overwhelmingly secularist. If the HDP joins the bloc, the contradictions will become even clearer. After all, it remains unclear how the party, whose ties to the PKK are no secret, could work with the nationalist İP or the CHP and the military bureaucrats among its ranks. With just 50 days left until election day, the fact that this bloc still has no presidential candidate is a serious problem as well.

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