Today, as local elections are approaching, it is important to note the differences between the AK Party and the Republican People's Party (CHP) campaigners and voter behavior. As the head of the Liberal Thought Institution Professor Atilla Yayla pointed out in his article in the daily Yenişafak on Friday, there is an obvious difference between the spirit of campaigns of the AK Party and that of the CHP. Yayla compared campaigning in two different locations, Üsküdar and Beşiktas, the former being one of the strongest districts of the AK Party supporters and the latter one of the strongest districts of CHP supporters. In Üsküdar, a stronghold of the AK Party, every party feels free to campaign as they wish. CHP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) campaigners position themselves at the square next to the AK Party campaign table and they feel at home. There is no discomfort in being in an AK Party district, Yayla observes. But on the other hand in Beşiktaş, a stronghold of the CHP, AK Party campaigners are humiliated and even harassed. It is almost impossible for them to set up a campaign table or distribute flyers.
This example actually hints voter behavior. AK Party voters enjoy being in power for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic. They are more tolerant toward other political affiliations. One of the factors why they seem to be more understanding lies in the fact that they still see the CHP voters backed by the military of which they have bad memories. Here is a deep-rooted fear. The CHP symbolizes a republican, secularist elite that ran Turkey with the help of the army. The religious masses were seen as second class citizens as were the Kurds, the Alevis and non-Muslims. Basic rights such as freedom of religion were banned; the headscarf ban in public buildings and schools is a good example of this. Another factor why they show respect to the CHP voters and their campaigns is the main character of AK Party voters. Most of them are humble, practicing Muslims who enjoy the long way Turkey has come with the AK Party government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.They do not want to go backward from the recent changes in Turkey and behave in a way to prevent any kind of chaos.
On the other hand, CHP voters have a different psychology and attitude. First, they feel lost and frustrated. One of the reasons for their frustration lies in the fact that they feel unrepresented. They do not find the CHP strong and competitive enough to beat the AK Party in the ballot box, which creates despair. Because of the lack of a strong political representation, they tend to express themselves on the streets. I believe that one of the reasons why Gezi protests were so widespread was the lack of a competitive opposition in Turkish politics. This made them useful to create a playground for some illegal groups to create chaos.
In order to strengthen Turkish democracy, a better representation of the secularist opposition is needed. The CHP can unfortunately not compete with Turkey's growing needs and changing way of making democratic politics.