Prior to the April 16, 2017 referendum on the constitutional change regarding the transition to the presidential system in Turkey, the opposition parties contested this change claiming that in the new system the parliament could be bypassed and stripped of its duties as the main law maker and auditor of the government. Among the main reasons was the fact that the President would be able to appoint ministers without any parliamentary scrutiny as well as the president acquiring the power of executive decree to enact laws.
The initial idea was that there would be a long transition period during which legislation would be passed to create the modus operandi for the new system. However, that did not happen and as a result snap elections were held on June 24, 2018, which allowed for the presidential system to enter our lives.
Since then, the opposition has continued to voice the same criticism. In fact, they are right. So far, the number of presidential decrees have surpassed the number of laws that have been enacted by the parliament. The number of draft legislation proposed by the opposition to be enacted into law is zero. The elected members of parliament have limited tools to scrutinize appointed ministers.
Most recently, an event transpired likely to be seen in scenarios of an absurd comedy piece. With the “pro” votes of MHP and AK Party MPs, the bill postponing the requirement for filtration in thermal power plants, was approved in the parliament. The decision caused an uproar in the opposition ranks but also in a large section of society. Then, something quite unexpected happened; President Erdoğan vetoed the bill. The irony is of course, that the very same law that was tabled by Mr. Erdoğan’s AK Party was vetoed by President Mr. Erdoğan himself.
The fundamental reason why President Erdoğan vetoed the bill is that (as also evident in our public opinion polling) Turkish society is unequivocally cultivating stronger reactions against issues regarding the degradation of the environment. Clearly there are other power struggles within the AK Party that contributed to the situation, however, I suspect President Erdoğan’s priority is the public’s reaction. Regardless, the absurdity of this single piece of legislation’s story is quite telling.
Whilst the opposition is criticizing the government for rendering the parliament less powerful, their turn out performance during voting of various legislation at the general assembly tell a different story. Last week at TurkiyeRaporu.com, we published our analysis of MPs turnout rate for the 38 votes that took place in the general assembly in its 27th term, that is since June 24, 2018. On average, 47% of the 589 MPs were present for voting. The highest participation rate was 83% and the lowest was 34%.
The average participation rate for AK Party and MHP (partners of the ruling coalition) was 75% and 48% respectively. Concerning CHP and İYİ Party, (partners of the opposing coalition) the rate stood at 17% and 24% respectively. Finally, the average turnout for pro-Kurdish HDP was a meagre 9%. This is where it gets interesting, if all MPs of all the opposition parties were present, 15 of the 38 votes would be in favor of the opposition. Granted, if that had been the case, the ruling coalition would gather up their MPs to tip the balance. However, this shows that if the opposition is to criticize the government for by-passing the parliament, first they need to actually show up to vote.
The most pressing problem Turkey faces today is unemployment. The main cure for it is an structural improvement of the Turkish economy.
In a country that has more than 50 million registered voters, a single vote does not carry much influence. Yet voter turnout in Turkish elections remains over 80%. So why do Turkish people vote? In fact, fulfilling one's duties as a citizen matters more than having an impact on the election results.
Even though the majority of the society did not conduct an earthquake test, 66.4% of society believes that their home is earthquake resistant. In fact, 43.7% of attendants stated that they believe their homes are earthquake resistant even though they never conducted an earthquake test. Statistics demonstrate that Turkey is not prepared for earthquakes at both an infrastructure and individual level.
Following a significant earthquake and amid a turbulent political conjuncture, Turkey's citizens are worried. Yet rather than politics or economics, people are mostly concerned about their individual security and that of their families.
Speculation regarding the potential of new parties are abound. According to our September 2019 polling across Turkey, the potential for the new parties that would be established by former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former economy chief Ali Babacan stood a little over 17% combined. This number in line with the 15-20% of the electorate who are looking for something new. We will have to wait and see whether the new parties will be able to realize this potential.
As the demands of its electorate have changed, the AKP can no longer resort to ideological polarization. This could allow for shifts in the political landscape.
A nation-wide poll, conducted during the first week of January, showed that 58% of the population is against sending troops to Libya. A breakdown of the result according to party supporters is telling. The AKP base itself is opposed to it and a divergence prevails between the AKP and the MHP bases.
Turkey is now sending military support for the Government of National Accord (GNA) to aid in its fight against General Hafter. The potential benefit of this decision is too distanced from the public life. Particularly, if the mission turns into an operational one, it will be very difficult to explain to the public why we are indeed in Libya.
Turkey is locked into a single issue and it is not the new wave of Turkey bound refugees from Idlib. It is the mega Canal İstanbul project. However, public does not have adequate knowledge of the project according to a recent poll.
Finally, last week, former Prime Minister and chief of foreign policy, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s much anticipated Future Party was inaugurated. Analysts are rushing to deem his party’s chances slim. I see that there is a fundamental flaw in that analysis.
For a long time now, all our polling points to two main sources of dissatisfaction among the public. First is the economy. Second is the Syrian refugees and the Syria policy. Both are policy areas where Mr. Babacan and Mr. Davutoğlu were responsible for at the highest level of public office. It would have been much easier and strategically correct for President Erdoğan to link today’s woes to the wrong doings of the two during when they were in office.
Last Tuesday, former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Ali Babacan for the first time appeared on national television as an opposition politician. Mr. Babacan did not object when the host of the talk show host suggested he appears as more of a “political organizer” than a “political leader”. It shows that his movement is not organized in the typical political hierarchy that voters are used to see.
A couple of months ago, when three HDP mayors were removed from office, I had predicted that this increased the chances of early elections in the fall of 2020. Looking at the economic sentiment of the house hold, it is safe to say chances for an early elections has slimmed since. Because, right now economy is the number one priority of the Turkish electorate and they are not happy.
According to a latest poll, President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) appears to have lost 1.2 points of support whereas Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) increased its support by 3.1 points after Turkey's "Operation Peace Spring" in northern Syria.
In Turkey and across the world, the voting behavior of the young is changing. Turkey hosts close to 5 million citizens comprised between the ages of 14 and 17. By 2023, this entire group will vote, constituting close to 10% of the entire electorate.
Day-to-day events and inconsistent messages that have been coming from Turkey's traditional Western partners over the past decade have fostered negative sentiments. Yet the majority of the Turkish public values a long-term partnership with the West.
Since 2015, patterns in voting behavior have been shifting. Poor governance and a stagnant economy are largely behind this change.