Sur­vey Re­view: Turkey’s lo­cal elec­tion and the cor­rup­tion op­er­a­tions, By Ömer Çaha

Turkish Review - - CONTENTS - ÖMER ÇAHA Staff writer

Turkey will re­al­ize three elec­tions over the course of the next year and a half. Three months af­ter the lo­cal elec­tion of March 30 comes the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Fol­low­ing these two crit­i­cal elec­tions, Turkey will go to the polls a third time in the gen­eral elec­tion of July 2015. The key ques­tion on Turkey’s agenda now is the likely im­pact on the first of these elec­tions of the cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions launched on Dec. 17, 2013, which im­pli­cated se­nior AK Party mem­bers in a graft scan­dal?

The first point of ref­er­ence here is the most re­cent lo­cal elec­tion in 2009 (Ta­ble 1); this will be the yard­stick by which suc­cess or fail­ure in the 2014 polls is mea­sured, in par­tic­u­lar for the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party) and the main op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP), with nei­ther want­ing to lose con­trol of their cur­rently held mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. The AK Party re­ceived 38.4 per­cent of the vote in the lo­cal elec­tion of 2009, a drop from both the 46.7 per­cent it won in the 2007 gen­eral elec­tion and the 41.7 per­cent it re­ceived in the lo­cal elec­tion of 2004. The de­crease in AK Party sup­port shown in 2009 was at­trib­uted to the in­flu­ence of the global eco­nomic cri­sis of 2008, but the party still chooses to rec­og­nize the 2009 re­sult as the stan­dard it must match -- or bet­ter -- in March.

The re­sults of the 2009 lo­cal elec­tion are also im­por­tant for the CHP: It was this elec­tion that paved the way for Ke­mal Kılıç­daroğlu’s lead­er­ship of the party. His de­bate with Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek a few months be­fore the elec­tion in­creased his pop­u­lar­ity both among CHP vot­ers and na­tion­wide. The CHP ran its elec­tion cam­paign cen­ter­ing on the fig­ure of Kılıç­daroğlu, its İs­tan­bul may­oral can­di­date, pre­sent­ing him as a new politi­cian and as a trusted and hon­est per­son. The CHP saw pos­i­tive re­sults in this ap­proach at the polls: It in­creased its vote from 18 per­cent in 2004 to 23 per­cent na­tion­wide in 2009, and to 37 per­cent from 29 in İs­tan­bul. Kılıç­daroğlu’s can­di­dacy was widely cred­ited with the in­crease in the CHP’s vote, giv­ing rise to an ex­pec­ta­tion, among CHP vot­ers, for his be­com­ing the new party chair­man. In 2009 when CHP Chair­man Deniz Baykal re­signed fol­low­ing a sex tape scan­dal Kılıç­daroğlu was duly elected the party’s new leader. Kılıç­daroğlu and his team have stated that if they fail to match their 2009 per­for­mance they will open the way for a new leader, namely the party’s new İs­tan­bul may­oral can­di­date (and cur­rent mayor of the İs­tan­bul dis­trict of Şişli) Mustafa Sarıgül. Many peo­ple be­lieve that the com­ing lo­cal elec­tion is crit­i­cal for the CHP in the sense that it will raise the ques­tion of who should rule the party: Kılıç­daroğlu or Sarıgül?


There has been much de­bate as to the likely effect the Dec. 17 op­er­a­tions will have on the AK

Party vote. Pub­lic opin­ion polls be­fore and af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­gan can shed some light on this ques­tion. Two sur­veys from GENAR, in July 2013 and Jan­uary 2014, are well suited to this pur­pose (Fig­ure 1). In the ear­lier of these two sur­veys, con­ducted among 2,294 re­spon­dents in 16 cities dur­ing the pe­riod June 20-July 3 July 2013, the fore­cast AK Party vote was 50.8 per­cent. A poll three weeks af­ter Dec. 17 showed the AK Party vote drop to 48.8. This se­cond sur­vey was con­ducted face-to-face among 3,181 re­spon­dents from 30 cities dur­ing Jan. 4-8, 2014. The later sur­vey shows a 2 per­cent drop in sup­port for the AK Party, but 48.8 per­cent none­the­less still rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant gain over the 2009 lo­cal elec­tion re­sults. The GENAR poll found no fun­da­men­tal change in the vote for the other three par­ties, namely the CHP, Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democ­racy Party (BDP).

Two polls from KONDA pro­duced re­sults sim­i­lar to the GENAR sur­vey. It found an AK Party vote in ex­cess of 50 per­cent in Oc­to­ber 2013, drop­ping to 47.7 per­cent in Jan­uary 2014. The re­sults of KONDA’s

sur­vey in­di­cate that the CHP will get 28.2 per­cent, the MHP 14.4 per­cent, the BDP 5.9 per­cent and other par­ties 3.7 per­cent. A fur­ther sur­vey on the forth­com­ing Turk­ish lo­cal elec­tions comes from Kon­sen­sus, which con­ducted a poll among 1,504 re­spon­dents from 81 cities through com­puter-as­sisted tele­phone in­ter­view (CATI) be­tween Dec. 19, 2013, and Jan. 23, 2014. Its re­sults sug­gest the AK Party will get 41.7 per­cent of the to­tal vote in the lo­cal elec­tions, while the CHP will get 29.5 per­cent, the MHP 15.4 per­cent, the BDP 6.5 per­cent and oth­ers 7.9 per­cent.

The find­ings of these sur­veys un­der­line the fact that the volatil­ity of the AK Party’s vote is greater than that of the other par­ties. Vot­ers for the rul­ing party are sen­si­tive to the per­for­mance of their party in govern­ment, and re­flect their reser­va­tions at the bal­lot box. None­the­less, fore­cast sup­port for the AK Party in the forth­com­ing lo­cal elec­tions re­mains well above lev­els shown in 2009 -- what re­mains to be seen is whether the party will lose fur­ther ground be­fore March 2014.


The AK Party govern­ment made a fun­da­men­tal change with re­gard to the elec­tion of may­ors in Turkey’s met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Un­der the pre­vi­ous sys­tem there were 16 met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, the may­ors of which were elected by those liv­ing in the rel­e­vant city cen­ter. These peo­ple had a dou­ble vote; for the pro­vin­cial coun­cil on the one hand and for the met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­ity on the other. Mean­while the new sys­tem in­creases the num­ber of met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to 30 and gives the chance to elect the met­ro­pol­i­tan mayor to all cit­i­zens within the bor­der of the prov­ince, even those in out­ly­ing towns and vil­lages. The met­ro­pol­i­tan mayor will thus be elected on the ba­sis of the pro­vin­cial coun­cil votes for their party.

At present 18 of the 30 met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are ruled by the AK Party, eight by the CHP, three by the BDP and two by the MHP (Fig­ure 2). How­ever, a sur­vey from the Ob­jec­tive Re­search Com­pany (ORC) in­di­cates that the AK Party is likely to in­crease the num­ber of met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties it holds in the 2014 lo­cal elec­tion. The ORC poll was con­ducted in 30 cities over more than 70,000 re­spon­dents through face-to-face in­ter­views dur­ing Dec. 24, 2013, to Jan. 18, 2014. As the ORC sur­vey shows, the MHP and BDP will pre­serve the

num­ber met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties they hold, but the CHP will lose one mu­nic­i­pal­ity to the AK Party.

The ORC also in­ves­ti­gated the per­for­mance of po­lit­i­cal par­ties in 10 crit­i­cal met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties (Ta­ble 2). The re­sults of this sur­vey sug­gest all the par­ties will pre­serve their cur­rent po­si­tion in these cities. How­ever, the ORC’s sur­vey shows that in three cities -- İzmir, An­talya and Di­yarbakır -- the dif­fer­ence be­tween the AK Party and its ri­vals seems very small, sug­gest­ing a po­ten­tial sur­prise in March. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the AK Party and CHP is about 5 per­cent in İzmir, 6 per­cent in An­talya and 4 per­cent in Di­yarbakır, ac­cord­ing to the ORC sur­vey. It should be borne in mind that the vote for the pro­vin­cial coun­cil will de­ter­mine the fate of the elec­tion in met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties un­der the new rules.

The three most im­por­tant met­ro­pol­i­tan cities in Turkey are İs­tan­bul, Ankara and İzmir, as re­gards both their share of vote and their eco­nomic and bu­reau­cratic clout. They also have sym­bolic power; İs­tan­bul and Ankara have be­come the twin cen­ters of the AK Party, while İzmir has been the “fortress” of CHP since the 1994 lo­cal elec­tions. İs­tan­bul is eco­nom­i­cally the most pow­er­ful city in Turkey, and many peo­ple be­lieve that its loss would sym­bol­ize the loss of Turkey for the AK Party. By the same to­ken the loss of İzmir would rep­re­sent the crum­bling of the CHP’s cas­tle. How­ever, as of the end of Jan­uary 2014, pub­lic opin­ion polls sug­gest that both the AK Party and the CHP will pre­serve their po­si­tions in these met­ro­pol­i­tan cities.

Fi­nally, ORC’s sur­vey found that four met­ro­pol­i­tan mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, among 30, will prob­a­bly change hands dur­ing the com­ing lo­cal elec­tion: Mersin, Hatay, Ordu and Manisa (Ta­ble 3). Ac­cord­ing to ORC’s sur­vey, the CHP will lose two met­ro­pol­i­tan cities, while the AK Party and MHP will lose one mu­nic­i­pal­ity each, but will gain one in re­turn. Among these cities Hatay seems the most crit­i­cal, be­cause the AK Party’s can­di­date there is for­mer Jus­tice Min­is­ter Sadul­lah Er­gin. The loss of this city would per­haps hurt the govern­ment more than the loss of any other city -- with the ex­cep­tion of İs­tan­bul.


Protests were rife in Turkey in the wake of a cor­rup­tion probe at the end of 2013.



The CHP’s hopes for İs­tan­bul rested on the shoul­ders of may­oral can­di­date Mustafa Sarıgül (L), shown here with party leader Ke­mal Kılıç­daroğlu,

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