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Why has the AKP’s popularity declined?

Turkish President and the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during AK Party’s rally in Istanbul, Turkey on 22 June 2018 [Kayhan Özer/Anadolu Agency]
Turkish President and the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during AK Party’s rally in Istanbul, Turkey on 22 June 2018 [Kayhan Özer/Anadolu Agency]

The unofficial results of the early presidential and parliamentary elections held last Sunday in all parts of Turkey showed the victory of the President and People’s Alliance candidate, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the first round, in addition to winning a majority in the Turkish parliament.

The Supreme Electoral Council announced that Erdogan received 52.59 per cent of the votes, and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 41.85 per cent. On the other hand, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won 10.90 per cent of the vote. This means that about 10.74 per cent of the voters voted for Erdogan in the presidential elections but did not vote for the AKP in the parliamentary elections.

In the parliamentary elections held on 1 November 2015, the AKP won 49.50 per cent of the vote. In other words, the percentage of votes won by the party in the last elections fell by about 7.65 per cent. Therefore, observers and analysts are looking for the answer to this question: “Why has the popularity of the Justice and Development Party declined?”

The MHP did not nominate anyone in the presidential election, instead declaring its support for Erdogan. Thus, it is natural that the percentage of votes obtained by Erdogan in the presidential elections is more than the percentage of votes obtained by the Justice and Development Party in the parliamentary elections. However, there is a clear decline in AKP’s popularity that no one can deny.

Read: Western media go anti-Turkey and Erdogan before polls

This decline cannot be attributed to one cause, as there are several reasons that led to it. The first of these reasons is the difference between the parliamentary system and the presidential system, which will now be applied after these elections. In the 1 November elections, voters feared the return of coalition governments and wanted to give the AKP a majority in parliament to form a government alone. In the new system, the president does not need the confidence of the parliament to form a government, so voters were content with enabling Erdogan to win without enabling the AKP to get a parliamentary majority.

Another reason for the decline of the AKP is the discontent of part of his supporters regarding the government’s policies on some issues, the nomination of some names on the party’s electoral lists, or the formation of an electoral alliance with the MHP. It seems that they wanted to teach the party a lesson in order for it to correct its “wrong” policies, but they voted for Erdogan in the presidential elections, taking into account the interests of the country. This is despite some reservations about the AKP’s performance and discontent with some of its policies.

The third reason is that voters sympathise with the MHP, which played a pivotal role in amending the constitution and moving the country from the parliamentary system to the presidential system. There is no doubt that the support of the MHP, headed by Devlet Bahceli, for Erdogan’s nomination in the presidential elections and its agreement with the government on major national issues, such as combatting the coup organisers, parallel state cells, and terrorist cells, as well as the Syria and Iraq issue, has prompted voters to feel the need to vote for the MHP in order for it not to lose to Meral Aksener, whose party is a dissident of the MHP.

Read: Turkey’s election promises fail to tackle the economy

The People’s Alliance, formed by the AKP with the MHP, won the majority in parliament, which means that the AKP will need the support of the MHP in order to pass laws in the parliament. Hence, we can say that the voters did not want the People’s Alliance to remain an electoral alliance, but for it to continue after the elections in order to solve the country’s problems under the parliament.

Regardless of whether or not the People’s Alliance lasts, the AKP should perform an in-depth study into the reasons behind the decline of its popularity and conduct a thorough review to rectify its mistakes. This is so that this decline does not worsen and lead to a heavy loss in the local elections scheduled for the end of March.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 27 June 2018

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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