It is less than four weeks left to the election day. There are other candidates too, but it is very likely that the contest will be between the AK Party’s candidate and the main opposition CHP’s candidate who had won the race for the metropolitan municipality of Istanbul on March 31.
Because all of us, as commentators, have focused on the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision for a re-run and then its reasoned decision, we couldn’t find the opportunity to examine the essential question.
I guess it is time to do so.
The essential question here is this: How will CHP manage to sustain the votes that allowed its candidate to win the last election, and what should AK Party do to increase its votes further this time?
Please don’t tell me, “Some AK Party votes were stolen!” Even within AK Party’s electorate, only a few buy this argument. AK Party supporters see the re-run as ‘the rabbit pulled out of the hat‘ and expect the same thing to happen again. [In June 7, 2015 presidential election, AK Party got around 40 percent of votes and lost its position as the majority in the Parliament. It decided to go for an early election, and managed to hold power by winning nearly 50 percent of votes six months later in that snap election. -TN]
Limits of AK Party and CHP
AK Party has to convince some of its supporters to go to the ballot box and vote for the party, who did not do so due to different reasons in the election of March 31, or to attract new voters from other parties’ grassroots.
How can AK Party achieve this?
While seeking an answer to this question, I feel myself compelled to point out a fact that the opposition finds hard to understand: If not impossible, it is very unlikely that those people who voted for AK Party in the election of March 31 would change their minds as a reaction against the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision or because of the criticism their party has drawn. AK Party’s vote percentage in the election of March 31 is already at its minimum in the given circumstances, and a further decrease in a few months should not be expected.
Wherever I happen to converse with AK Party supporters, I notice their ears are closed to the counter arguments of the opposition. Each finds some excuses to remain as an AK Party voter.
Even those who might change sides being affected by the media bias, thus giving an ear to what is being told in the dissenting TV channels – Fox TV in particular- do not give any sign of change of mind when it comes to voting for AK Party.
This is the case -at least for the time being.
CHP has a limited time available to be able to change this by managing to attract some voters from the opposite side.
Of course, what CHP should primarily do, simultaneously by getting new votes from other parties’ voters, is to strive for taking same amount of people who voted for its candidate on March 31 to the ballot box on June 23 again…
The opposition’s job is difficult.
But AK Party’s job is not easy either…
First of all, lacking convincing arguments appears to be a challenge for AK Party. Its performance in election campaigns in last two years is a far cry from its success in earlier election campaigns. The party based its campaign prior to March 31 on ‘matter of survival’, a national security-based notion. Now, while the new election date is approaching, this notion seems to have been abandoned completely, and a new campaign rhetoric is now at work before the election of June 23, which aims to attract voters of HDP [the People’s Democratic Party is a left-wing party, enjoying popular support from Kurds -TN], the very ‘threat‘ implied by the term ‘question of survival‘ only a few months ago.
Quite a confusing change of discourse for the AK Party voters.
MHP [the Nationalist Movement Party, a right-wing party supporting Erdoğan -TN] and its leader Devlet Bahçeli don’t oppose the recent attempts for communication with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK on the Island of Imralı. The reason of their silence is possibly because it is thought that such an opposition may adversely affect the MHP supporters who voted previously for the AK Party candidate.
It is perfectly possible that AK Party may be losing some votes from MHP supporters while attempting to attract some votes from HDP’s grassroots in vain.
Managing these two parties who are hostile towards each other is like nailing jelly to the wall.
In the election of March 31 AK Party had used its only strong trump card: President Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the leader of AK Party… He himself appeared before the masses, made promises in public meetings, and his photographs appeared in posters and banners in streets throughout the country.
It appears that executive campaign organizers of AK Party have found it more suitable for the new campaign to push their mayoral candidate forward. Binali Yıldırım is more visible compared to Tayyip Erdoğan this time.
Difference between two candidates in perceptions of electorate
This is the overall picture; but, there is an element of elusiveness in the picture. I don’t know if it is because of his image arising from his official positions in past stuck into people’s mind or the air dominating his way of speaking, but Binali Yıdırım fails to give a strong impression of a suitable mayoral candidate.
The Istanbul electorate will make a choice between a candidate who is a former mayor of a district of Istanbul with a constant smile on his face when appearing before masses, and another one who had been put in as the mayoral candidate in the previous election (2014) in the city of Izmir and lost, with rather an image of a stiff upper lip statesman? Answer to this question, I believe, is a disadvantage for the AK Party.
The AK Party candidate enjoys a clear predominance in terms of media coverage, and he makes use of this advantage to the full extent. Conversely, the candidate of the opposition appears less in media and he can use only alternative television channels that broadcast on Internet.
It may prove to be counter-effective for the AK Party‘s candidate to appear in media a lot and very often; overexposure is harmful in many occasions.
Politicians enjoy the privilege of saying things today just the opposite of what they said yesterday. However, columnists and commentators whose mission is perceived as giving support to AK Party lack this privilege. People easily notice the contradictions between what they are arguing today and what views they held and supported yesterday in their pieces and comments. They are all in archive. This constitutes another disadvantage for AK Party.
The picture is this: This election is a difficult one for both parties.
In short: The election victory is not a bird in the hand.
[Translated by Bernar Kutluğ from the the article appeared in this site’s Turkish section on May 27, 2019]