In fact, the party’s vote by itself may be closer to 40%, and perhaps below. It is important to note that there were not many crossover votes between the electoral blocks. Yet there were some between the so-called Public bloc of AKP and MHP, as the latter appears to have syphoned off votes from the former in the municipal council elections. This reinforces the earlier observation according to which Mr. Erdoğan is increasingly beholden to MHP’s leader Mr. Bahçeli. Moreover, the demographic breakdown of the votes suggests that the AKP is no longer commanding the support of the younger generations, and the secular trend of diminishing youth vote, which was first detected in the referendum of 2017, continues.
Despite the fact that major cities went to the opposition Nation alliance (consisting of CHP and the nationalist IYIP-the Good Party), and that the CHP made inroads to the Anatolian heartland, the electoral divides still remain by and large fixed. The country has three major sociological electoral blocks. The ethnically aware Kurds, conservative Anatolia, and the coastal regions, which are more open to the rest of the world, even if they are quite nationalistic at heart as well. These blocks are separated from one another by their preferences of lifestyles, ideology, relation to religion and their approach to the Kurdish problem. The parties have the support of committed, immutable electoral clusters.
This reality shows that, in the future, national election results will be determined by metropolitan centers, whose voters are defecting from the AKP, and where groups with pragmatic and therefore potentially shifting preferences are somewhat liberated from identity politics. It remains to be seen if the AKP’s most loyal supporters among the urban poor, who benefit from the charity economy that was created by the party, would shift their allegiance once the clientelist networks of major cities will be controlled by the opposition. The latter will likely continue to help them...
Finally, the elections also showed that a previously relatively unknown politician has entered the national political scene in full force. The CHP candidate for mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu, surprised most election observers with his disciplined campaigning, positive politics, calm demeanor, perseverance, ability to build coalitions and to pervade the previously impenetrable constituencies that remained loyal to the AKP. He has also managed the post-election hustle of counts and recounts in Istanbul calmly, yet with determination. He has kept in touch with various constituencies, stood his ground and tried to communicate the message that he is indeed the mayor-elect of Istanbul. Polls indicate that AKP voters do not share the hysterics of their party leadership and media hatch men, and do not favor another election.
Pending the decision of the High Electoral Board on Istanbul, Turkey is at a crossroads. One road will lead the country to a gradual restoration of electoral and democratic principles and processes, and potentially to a reshuffling of the electoral map. The other will lead to the further debasement, if not to the dangerous irrelevance, of the singularly important and legitimizing institution of Turkish democracy, the elections, and the sanctity of the ballot box. That path would be a dead end. Whether or not these elections - and particularly the loss of big patronage and rent churning machines like Istanbul and Ankara - will undermine the AKP’s electoral support remains to be seen, should the first path be taken.
Still, it is not imprudent to suggest that a new era has begun in Turkish politics - for better or for worse.
Copyright : BULENT KILIC / AFP