Yes, I was slightly shocked when I saw the first Turkish election results yesterday. But then again, somehow I did not really have a positive feeling about it this time around. It was an election that was imposed by the AKP (Justice and Development Party), basically just because they did not want to share their power. When I went to cast my vote this time, it was more that I felt it was my duty to do so than that I had a flicker of hope that this would lead to change in Turkish politics.
To an outside observer, these results may seem puzzling. But then again, I am guessing that for anyone who’s raised in a healthy democratic system, none of the election results since the Gezi events in May-June 2013 and the corruption scandals in December 2013 is understandable in rational terms. In a ‘normal’ democratic system, AKP should have been punished right away. Four elections later, we see that the party has not significantly lost votes. Even their biggest loss during the June 2015 general elections is in my eyes a slight loss in view of all the events that have taken place in Turkey. Yet again, after the last elections, there was shortly hope for a better future, whereas yesterday’s AKP victory is a mind-blowing defeat for those who were hoping for change and transformation in Turkey.
I thought I would just pour my thoughts out and give my cup of explanation of this unexpected victory. Then again, I went back to my blog after the March 2014 local elections, where I listed three socio-historical reasons for why people still vote for AKP: the cult of the majority, the cult of a strong leader, the cult of right-wing developmentalism. These explanations are still valid, so I do not want to repeat myself. This time around AKP rulers have chosen to play the cult of the majority rule card: They kept on repeating the argument that coalition governments cannot govern well and thus bring political instability.
The scandalous part of the story, however, is that they brought instability with their own hands, created a huge atmosphere of fear and oppression, and blamed the result on the fact that they did not have the majority in the parliament. It was the most bizarre political game I have witnessed in my adult political life! And apparently, some voters just bought it. Looking at the results, there are three groups of voters on whom the feelings of fear and insecurity have led to a return to a support of the majority party/rule:
- Kurdish conservative voters: The actual reign of terror in the southeastern provinces in Turkey since July has brought back horror days in this region. In their case, the imminent fear of death has affected their choice. The voters who had turned to HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) during the last elections seem to have returned to AKP this time around. In the short-term, this is probably the most understandable shift – They want to live and to be able to walk on the streets again.
- Nationalist conservative voters: The fear of instability, combined with the downright refusal of the nationalist MHP (Nationalist Movement Party)’s leader Devlet Bahçeli to participate in any coalition government, have led these mostly central and eastern Anatolian voters to go for the empowering the majority party. Better a right-wing government than a hopeless party in opposition.
- White collar conservative voters: Last, but not least, the white collar businessmen (maybe also some women) who have seen their business being affected by the environment of political instability have chosen yet again for their own wallets. This was an important group who brought AKP to power in the first place. Even though some have lost their faith in AKP and have given HDP a chance during the last elections, this did not lead to a stable government formation. This probably explains the shift in urban areas in western Turkey from HDP to AKP. A known factor of stability is preferred over an unknown political and economic future.
Personally, I find it very sad that voters have surrendered out of fear to the powerful arms of the majority. While this political (re)turn might bring some safety in the short-term, it has legitimized the use of force and terror by AKP to reach its own selfish political goals. Unfortunately, today, a ‘normal’, healthy democracy in Turkey seems further away than ever.