Since the repeat
Istanbul municipal elections, new political parties that would be
established by Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu have been on the top
of the political agenda. Until very recently, President Erdoğan
chose not to attack the two directly. At some point, it was even
rumored that he had suggested the two come back to AK Party to work
together. However, since then, it became clear that both politicians
would found their own parties and try to go at it on their own.
Yesterday Mr. Davutoğlu handed in his application to the Ministry of
Interior for his party.
establishment of İYİ Party, President Erdoğan opted a strategy
whereby he neglected İYİ Party and its leader Ms. Akşener. He made
sure to never speak of Ms. Akşener in an attempt to prevent her name
from growing. However, the İYİ Party of Ms. Akşener was quite
different from the two new parties. Our polling at the time revealed
that İYİ Party would be able to convince an insignificant amount of
AK Party voters to switch sides. Results of the elections indeed
confirmed the polling.
This is not the case
for Mr. Babacan’s and Mr. Davutoğlu’s parties. First, it is with
certainty that the new parties will not take place in the People’s
Alliance consisting of AK Party and the
nationalist MHP. Furthermore, the natural source of votes for the two
politicians will be disgruntled AK Party voters. After all, both of
them served at the highest positions during several AK Party
governments. Given the situation, instead of snubbing the two,
President Erdoğan made it clear last week that he will attack them
He did this from an
unexpected angle. He blamed Mr. Davutoğlu to have unlawfully
allocated public land to a university founded by his comrades. He
further went on to implicate Mr. Babacan, regarding an allegedly
questionable line of credit extended from a public bank to this
university’s administration. Not only this line of attack will not
hurt Mr. Davutoğlu or Mr. Babacan but also it has the potential to
hurt AK Party more. For outsiders, this looks like a fight over a
piece of land, a typical quarrel of clientelist politics for which AK
Party has been increasingly criticized for. The fact that CHP
municipalities keep the irresponsible spending by former AK Party
mayors is helping feed this perception.
fact, there was an easier, much more straight forward strategy that
President Erdoğan could employ. For a long time now, all our polling
points to two main sources of dissatisfaction among the public. First
is the economy. The relative improvement in some macro indicators do
not trickle down to the household. 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. Back in the day, AK Party was
capable of devising such strategy and corner opposition and surely
strategic rhetoric would work. It will be easy for both Mr. Babacan
and Mr. Davutoğlu to dodge this bullet and perhaps even turn it
around to make it work for their benefit.
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.
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.
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.