Despite the leftist ideology professed by the opposition CHP, the interests of the poor, the middle class, workers, Kurds and the pious are in line with the AK Party's policies
ISTANBUL — As Turkey leaves behind the March 30 local elections, factors affecting the ruling AK Party's victory for the last 12 years are still being discussed and debated. Analyzing the elections and voter trends, the Turkish political research institute KONDA has released a study on the local elections. The KONDA report analyzes how voters' behavior is influenced by certain criteria, including voters' political and religious views, lifestyles, education levels and even preferred media outlets.
The report includes data from 3,067 people living in 33 cities and makes recommendations for how political parties should approach their constituents.
The report notes how electorates feel about the parties in general and their election campaigns. "A large proportion of the society, mostly voters of the AK Party, have been feeling offended and disregarded by those who define themselves with secular politics, and there is no signal that there is another political movement that pledges to stop this discrimination."
On the otherhand, AK Party authorities should understand anti-AK Party citizens who feel that their lifestyles are at risk," the report says. It also states that Turkey should not discriminate against AK Party voters but rather attempt to understand this large proportion of the country.
One of the harshest criticisms in the analysis targets the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and its ignorance regarding the public's expectations. The report urges the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to leave their "oldfashioned and romantic discourse" in order to gain the upper hand against the ruling AK Party. The report holds the CHP and MHP chiefly accountable for not taking seriously the need for filling the political gap as opposition parties, a problem reminiscent of the political instability Turkey experienced between 1971 and 2002.
As one of the criteria, the report includes analysis of the correlation between voters' education levels and voting trends. According to the figures, CHP voters are more educated than AK Party voters. While 67 percent of AK Party voters who only received education up to high school level, this rate is about 43 percent for CHP voters. For MHP voters, this figure was about 49 percent, whereas the Kurdish-based left-wing Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) voters can be classified as the least educated with 71 percent only having a high school education.
In terms of voting trends as they correlate to income level, 34 percent of CHP voters have high incomes of TL 2,000 per month, while BDP voters have the lowest incomes in the country. AK Party voters' income levels are also lower than average for Turkey.
When it comes to voters' working conditions, the report asserts that the AK Party voter profile is in line with the country's average.
According to the figures, retirees, government officials and students mostly vote for the CHP; whereas craftsmen and housewives mostly vote for the AK Party. The analysis says that half of MHP voters are working citizens while most of the unemployed vote for the BDP. Strikingly, 40 percent of laborers vote for the AK Party, while 23 percent vote for the CHP.
Figures suggest that there is a tendency for high-income and educated people to vote for the CHP and that's why the party is in a position to potentially slide from its left-wing ideology and start to accept its elitist base. But critics suggest that the CHP's elitist approach could backfire and become the party's failure as one of the main factors drawing people to vote for the party is its ability to address all levels of society, as was shown in the recent election results.
When the AK Party's political approach of the last 12 years is evaluated, the figures show that the main reason for the party's victory is its success in reaching out to different parts of society to bring in people of different ethnic origins, lifestyles and economic backgrounds.
In terms of voters' ethnic origins, the report asserts that 80 percent of those surveyed define themselves as Turks, while 13 percent define themselves as Kurds. Two percent of voters say they are Zaza people and 1 percent Arab. The voting trends of those surveyed show that 13 percent of voters who define themselves as Kurdish vote for the AK Party, while 3 percent vote for the CHP and BDP.
Eighty-eight percent of people who voted for the BDP are Kurdish and 10 percent are Zaza.
Most of the Alevi population in Turkey voted for the CHP, with less than 3 percent voting for the AK Party, BDP and MHP. Despite the AK Party's democratization package to extend rights to minority groups, the figures suggest that the moves are either not substantial enough, only reaching certain parts of these minority groups, or that minorities' voting behavior is more related to their ideologies than their democratic expectations.
When the relation between lifestyle and voting behavior is evaluated, the figures suggest that 28 percent of those surveyed describe themselves as modern, while 43 percent say they are traditional conservatives, and 29 percent classify as religious conservatives. Of those who self-classified as religious conservatives, 43 percent voted for the AK Party. Fifty-five percent of voters who defined themselves as modern voted for the CHP and 35 percent of those who classified themselves as religious conservatives voted for the BDP.
To understand the correlation between voters' political outlooks and their preferred media outlets, the survey asked which TV channels and newspapers people prefer. Interestingly, 45 percent of those who watch Gülen-affiliated Samanyolu TV said they voted for the AK Party, while 15 percent voted for the CHP. Of those who read the Gülen- affiliated Zaman Newspaper, 59 percent voted for the AK Party. These figures stand as another example that the black propaganda of the Gülen Movement, which infiltrated the police and judiciary with the aim of toppling the ruling government, did not have any effect on Turkish society despite the continuous smear campaign against the AK Party in the run-up to the local elections.
Daily Sabah spoke to İhsan Aktaş, head of Turkish research institution GENAR about the KONDA report. Aktaş stated that one must pay special attention to the fact that parties from the center gained votes from all segments of society and in order for a party to gain a majority of the votes they have to appeal to a large societal sector. "Although CHP is a leftist party, it appeals to a traditional, elite base similar to a nationalist party," said Aktaş.
He further stated that the CHP gained most of its votes from the elderly as they received only 15 percent of their votes from the youth. "They [the CHP] cannot be seen as a labor or a leftist party and they are closer to right-wing parties in the West, whereas the AK Party has more resemblance to leftwing Western parties in some aspects," he said.Aktaş noted that the AK Party is conservative in terms of values, liberal in terms of economic policies, and leftist in terms of providing social services for the people. It is made up of a large synthesis of different ideologies, hence the reason why it gained a significant percent of votes in the election.
The head of Ankara-based Objective Research Center (ORC) Mehmet Murat Pösteki commented on the report and stated that the AK Party is more in touch with society than the CHP as it embraces citizens that aren't classified as elitist. CHP on the other hand is removed from the average man on the street because its voters and cadre are elitist. "While the AK Party brings the elitists and public together, the CHP has an image as a party of elitists and high society." Stating that the AK Party's votes are related to its success in reaching the masses whereas the CHP's votes are related to ideology, Pösteki noted that the AK Party can bridge the economic gap between the rich and the poor.