Reading 2015 Turkish Parliamentary Elections
The June 2015 Turkish Parliament (Grand National Assembly) election may be one of the most important elections in recent Turkish political history. In addition to the usual electoral arithmetic and forecasts, this election is surrounded by two extensive debates.
First is the involvement and demands of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, particularly his advocacy of a presidential system rather than the present system of parliamentary democracy, where the president holds a more symbolic role.
Second is whether the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), competing for the first time as a party rather than with a list of independent candidates, will be able to pass the required 10% threshold of popular vote. The predominantly Kurdish HDP is attempting to move beyond being only an ethnic rights party to being a party for freedoms and liberties for all.
Their ability to overcome the 10% threshold or not will determine the number of parliamentary seats for each party, but in addition, many also worry about the consequences of excluding a legitimate party representing the Kurdish movement from parliamentary politics.
These issues are being debated in detail at the national and international levels and the discussions seem to get more heated every day.
Political polarization can be subdivided into two forms: popular polarization and elite polarization. Popular polarization refers to an opinion and attitude shaped solely by an individual’s identification with a party (or even with a certain leader).
Simply, voters do not analyse cases and instead either wholly accept or reject an issue, policy, or idea based solely on party lines. Studies and analysis demonstrate that U.S. politics is currently going through its most polarized era in its history. The same can be argued for Turkish politics as well.
Turkey’s current electoral debates, where political factions polarize all sorts of social, economic, and even cultural issues, are being constructed and consolidated around belonging to a camp rather than building a case on issues and policies.
The main division is between those supporting or opposing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The divide between pro-AKP circles and those against grew wider and deeper starting with the anti-government Gezi Park protests in May/ June 2013.
The government’s repressive tactics in handling the protests and the police brutality deeply divided the so- ciety. While most AKP followers saw the protests as a plot against the national will and approved the government stance, the opposition took them as another indication of increasing authoritarianism in Turkey.
According to a recent public opinion survey by Acik Toplum Vakfı, Koc Universities, and Ohio State University, led by Prof. Ali Carkoglu, the number of individuals who are dissatisfied with the way democracy works in Turkey increased from 33% to 45%. In addition, while AKP voters have an average satisfaction score of 6.6 out of 10, this figure is 2.63 out of 10 (on average) for the voters for opposition parties.