Understanding Turkish politics
● Because the upcoming elections are crucial, I continue to concentrate on electoral politics. First, the result will determine the overall economic policy mix and there will be a philosophy behind it.
● Should the opposition win, there will be a return to normal monetary policy and the opposition bloc will aim at rebuilding credibility. Overseas capital won’t flow in all of a sudden, but as inflation falls and the exchange rate stabilizes, economic actors could finally make accurate forecasts.
● There will also be a renewed cooperation with the EU. Accession isn’t an option and the EU is notorious for its indecision and strategic errors, but even the EU will see that a stable and modern Turkey is best for everyone.
● Therefore, all forecasts are now predicated on the outcome of the elections. Strangely, it looks more and more like there will be a close call, which makes political guestimates all the more risky.
● As I pen these lines, Muharrem İnce has decided to run. Now there is a certain, vague sympathy for him among CHP (the main opposition party) youth. The important thing isn’t the percentage of votes he can muster though. What matters is the percentage of opposition votes he can attract and divide the opposition. How many CHP voters will vote for İnce?
● Divide et Impera: this is of course as old as Rome. All defections serve the other camp. If İnce’s 1-2% votes that will come directly from CHP supporters, then this could change the result of the presidential election. Then the fate of the country will change for many years to come because of this. Some 1-2%, in fact opposition voters, will have served Erdoğan’s interests.
● This has happened many times before. In 1994, in 1995 and in 1999 the social-democratic left was divided and lost elections precisely because of that. Nobody learns anything from past mistakes.
● However, even if İnce didn’t run, Erdoğan could still win. This is because his core clientele is solid. The AKP has over 11 million members, which translates as almost a ratio of 1 (member) to 2 (voters). The worst outcome for AKP can be like 28-30%. It is difficult to run against a party and a candidate that start from 30%.
● The new alliance of overtly religiously-affiliated radical Islamist small parties is intended to show that the incumbent bloc is defending both nation and religion. It is a counter-attack against the opposition bloc’s Table of Six, an alliance that includes three religiously-affiliated parties. It sends a clear ideological message to conservative and right-wing electorates.
● A second round in the presidential election looks more and more likely, and that will be an obvious advantage for Erdoğan. Turkey isn’t France. Because the opposition is locked in a firstround victory bet through the media, many opposition voters will be disappointed if this doesn’t happen and they will have lost their interest in the outcome in the second round.