These days Turkish politics is trying to crack open its shell. In the past three years we have seen new political actors emerging from the mainstream political movements who claim to be new voices: Akşener’s İYİ Party from MHP, new parties of Babacan and Davutoğlu from AK Party, Muharrem İnce from CHP and Selahattin Demirtaş from HDP are examples of actors who are diverging from their origin. Except for Demirtaş, who is still imprisoned, and İnce, all others established their own parties. It would be an inadequate analysis to affiliate the new positions taken by these leaders solely with their personal ambitions. Currently, Turkish politics is not delivering. The unproductive rhetoric that current actors have adopted are feeble attempts to keep their base intact. This is what triggers the emergence of new actors. Public seeks a change.
Increasing popularity and the support level of Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş after the local elections can be regarded as examples of public’s pursuit of new faces and discourses in politics. Indeed, emerging actors are not new to the political scene but they claim to have something new and different to say. The movements initiated by Ahmet Davutoğlu and Ali Babacan which split from AK Party, anbd Akşener’s İYİ Party which split from MHP are examples of new movements from the recent past. When I think about HDP, the path that Demirtaş took during the local elections drives me to think that if he was not imprisoned he would put his effort into repositioning HDP if not break off and go at it alone. These are the actors that try to crack the shell of current Turkish politics to meet the demands of the society.
It seems like the supply is trying to meet the demand in Turkish politics. But is it indeed the case? Recently, three new movements were generated respectively by Ali Babacan, Ahmet Davutoğlu and Muharrem İnce. We conducted two different polls to measure their public support. In September 2019 we asked about Babacan and Davutoğlu and on last August we measured the public support for Muharrem İnce. Considering the findings of these surveys, we concluded that İnce has a considerable voting potential superiority compared to others. To say something precise would be a mistake by looking at these potentials. The charisma and the importance of the leaders on the movements they initiated or parties they established cannot be denied but we need to realize that this is only half of the work. Founding political parties are complex operations that are not much different than efficiently organizing resources for a company. Profitability and success only partly depend on how good you front line product is.
The one who cracked the shell first, Meral Akşener, deserves to be examined separately. In order for these new movements to be successful there needs to be a change of behavior in the electorate. This change can either come from the bottom or from the top. In the case of Akşener the change came from the top, meaning the MHP leadership decided to leave opposition and join the AK Party ranks leaving a host of secular MHP voters out in the open. Akşener’s İYİ Party comfortably claimed this unattended electorate and then some more. On the other hand, for Babacan and Davutoğlu, the situation is quite the opposite. To increase their vote and potential base, they have to trigger voting behavior change in the AK Party base. They need to go from bottom to the top. So if they can manage at all, we will observe their vote shares increasing incrementally.
Then there is the curious case of Muharrem İnce. Despite achieving a historic victory in the municipal elections one in five CHP voters say that thay would vote for İnce if he established a party. More interestingly, 5,7% of the People’s Alliance voters would vote for İnce if he forms a new party. This would mean around 2-2,5% of the votes total vote might be lost on the People’s Alliance side. The first time İnce made a press statement, the media close to the government gave support to him and streamed his press conference. They gave this support because they assumed that the movement İnce initiated would divide the opposition bloc, yet I think they are cheering for the wrong guy.
As we approach 2023, political parties go through a change and we might see other actors emerging into the political scene. I think this is the perfect timing for an effective Greens Party. It would be the ultimate appeal for the “Generation Z”. A leader of the Green Party that will get 3-4 percent of votes in the first round of presidential election might negotiate to become the Minister of Environment and Urbanization in the second round of the election.