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. Will have to wait and see whether the new parties will be able to realize this potential. In our first poll of the year conducted during the first week of January, Gelecek Partisi (Future Party) showed up for the first time claiming 1% of the vote.
Several experts, including myself, believe that in the new system of ex-ante alliances and the requirement to get more than 50% of the votes to be elected as President, even 2-3% of the vote counts. This is still true, but impact would vary if at least one of the news parties cleared the 10% threshold by itself or a number of them did via forming an alliance. It is rumoured that a negotiation between centre right parties (new and old) are underway.
Looking at how ex-ante alliances resulted in the past can give us a good perspective in understanding how the above mentioned two new parties can effect the current state of politics in Turkey. The general elections of 2007 is a good example of how sometimes alliances do not succeed in fulfilling their potential. In the general elections of 2007, CHP made an alliance with DSP (Democratic Left Party) in the hopes of strengthening its presence in the parliament. As part of the agreement between the two parties, 13 MEP candidates entered the race from CHP lists. The alliance also aimed at serving the purpose of uniting the divided left at a time when the right was mostly united under the ruling AK Party. The results of the elections were a huge success for AK Party in that prior to the previous general elections AK PARTY increased its votes by %12,3 to %46,5. This gave AK Party around %62 of the seats in the parliament making them dominate the political space. In addition, another right Party MHP which did not have any seats in the parliament prior to this election gained 71 seats. Overall this was a major disappointment for CHP and for the overall left.
The ex-ante alliances where each party candidates ran under their own party’s name but the 10% threshold for each party was assumed satisfied if their respective alliances cleared it in total competed for the first time in June 2018 general elections. Much curiosity was voiced over the performance of the Saadet Partisi. It was believed Saadet would dramatically increase its votes since it was not limited by the election threshold thanks to being part of the Millet Alliance. However, the results of the elections showed that this was not the case. While the People’s Alliance received %52,6 of the votes, the Nation Alliance received %38,8 with only %0,8 coming from Saadet. That share of vote later played a crucial role in the re-election of Ekrem İmamoğlu in the Istanbul repeat election. As Saadet did not withdraw its candidate, what could be AK Party votes remained Saadet votes, helping the margin of İmamoğlu over his opponent.
The poor performance of Saadet can be explained by different scenarios. First, this is their actual potential and that’s that. Second, whilst they resonate more with the conservative base of AK Party, the fact that they were in alliance with the secular CHP kept the voters from voting for them. The question is, how would the conservative electorate respond, if Saadet Partisi, Democratic Party, İYİ Party, Future Party and the party of Babacan, all of which can be characterized by a much milder definition of secularism, except for Saadet, were to form a new alliance. Clearly, Davutoğlu and Babacan are more ambitious and believe that their respective parties can clear the 10% threshold on its own. There is no way of knowing for sure yet. I would speculate that Babacan would be likely to stay out of such a coalition whereas Davutoglu may be more inclined as polling numbers start coming in.
There is, however, another scenario. The AK Party is suffering loses for the time being. Securing a majority in the parliament or winning the presidential elections in the first round are no longer the likely scenario. But, AK Party is still the party that gets most of the votes by a margin of almost 15 percentage points to the runner up. If there were no ex-ante alliances and the requirement to get more than 50% of the vote to get elected president, life would be much less stressful for AK Party and its leader. Going forward, a constitutional change, to be agreed upon in the parliament may be in cards for Turkey.
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.
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.
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.