Explaining the 2014 Turkish Local Elections (III)

Why do people still vote for AKP?

Regardless of the lack of a viable opposition, AKP should have lost considerably more votes. This was the hope of all who were wishing for a new democracy and for clean politics in Turkey.

So why do people still vote for AKP?

There are three deep-rooted socio-historical reasons why AKP (still) enjoys wide political support:

  • The cult of the majority: This is the belief that coalition governments cannot govern well and thus bring political instability. Even though these were not national elections, people psychologically do not want to weaken the majority party. According to this logic, the bigger the majority, the stronger the government, the more able it is to introduce its policies and reforms. In turn, the majority party relies on this logic and claims that it represents the will of the majority and thus it can do whatever it wants.
  • The cult of a strong leader: This is the belief that only strong leaders can save the country. Erdoğan is seen as a charismatic leader and puts himself on a par with Atatürk. He acts as the father of the nation. A strong authoritarian father can dictate his will. The citizens, i.e. his children, need to follow his will. As long as they obey him and trust him, their father will protect them against all ills and conspiracies.
  • The cult of right-wing developmentalism: This is the belief that right-wing parties bring prosperity. The proof of the prosperity lies in infrastructure and construction. Look at the bridges, look at the roads, look at the hospitals – the concrete concretization of prosperity is everywhere to be seen. Interestingly, despite growing income inequality in Turkey, the lower income groups historically prefer right-wing parties to left-wing parties. The logic is that if people are getting rich, then we will get rich, too one day – People thus believe in the ‘Turkish dream’. As long as the economy is doing well, they are convinced it is thanks to the success of the government.

Erdoğan’s AKP continues to possess the three-in-one formula to success in Turkish politics and thus the popularity. Does the only way to success in Turkish politics go through copying the same formula?