The last-minute decisions of undecided voters have always played a bigger role in general elections than local elections, which
could explain why the AK Party is projected to takesuch a large share come March 30
There is fierce competition among the political parties running in the March 30 local election. Four trusted research institutes -ANAR, Pollmark, Denge and Genar- have published the results of recent public opinion polls that reflect the top political party contenders of over 120,000 people. According to results, AK Party's average is about 45 percent and the Republican People's Party's (CHP) is approximately 24 percent.
The four polling companies carried out the polls in conjunction with each other. This is the first time the AK Party has polled for local elections with such a large number of participants.
Additionally, corresponding to the KONDA's poll last month, the AK Party was at 49.4 percent, CHP at 21.8 percent, followed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) at 15.8 percent and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) at 8.3 percent.
A look at the numbers indicates two important possible realities: Firstly, the AK party will gain more votes based on the number of city municipalities they have. Secondly, these results will be directly reflected in the general elections in 2015. It is worth noting that the local election dynamic is very different to that of the general election.
Looking back at the last preliminaries for the general election, it is possible to say that voting behavior will be determined more by Erdoğan's policies than by anything else.
However, the driving force behind the local election is generally thought to be voters checking the performance of the ruling local government and the quality of their municipal services and other local undercurrents.
Because Turkey is living in interesting times, the general election dynamics have shifted to the local election; many people see the local election as a test for Erdoğan and the AK Party. The Dec. 17 operation and subsequent violations of privacy with wiretappings were used to degrade Erdoğan in the run-up to elections. If the opinion polls were performed under reliable and randomly selected samples, even with this atmosphere, we see that the campaign to discredit Erdoğan has had no impact on voters' behavior.
That is to say, for voting patterns in the general election, floating votes are more effective for a slight change in the results. The political parties have a potential of voters (green) and a group of non-voters (red), and a third type of voters which we refer to as "grey" voters and they mostly determine the results by making last-minute choices.
Therefore, general election dynamics are influenced more by last-minute choices, while local election choices are shaped by long-term public services and the issues impacting voters' lives. Thus, while attention moves from the municipal election to the general election, polls from two months ago could easily be stopped in their tracks; 48-49 percent for the AK Party -neither the target, nor the reality of the previous election records.
There is a possibility that this high result will be an immediate reaction against the Gülen Movement's anti-Erdoğan campaign, wiretappings, operations and all the denigration that took place. I would not say that the polling companies are wrong or that their polls do not have representative power, however it is possible that the reaction against the operations and the anti-Erdoğan campaign may trigger the voting patterns in favor of the AK Party. In doing so, the polls may reflect the reality of February and not the end of March. For election time, the end of March may be a slippery slope with voting behavior influenced by the grey voters.
Before putting the AK Party at 48 percent (from 38 percent in the last election), we should bear in mind that any percentage over 40 will indicate that it is not easy for non-political actors to design Turkish politics.
About the author
Meryem İlayda Atlas is Editorial Coordinator of Daily Sabah. She is board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey. Atlas also serves as a visiting scholar at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University.