The Analysis of 2014 Local Elections of Turkey

The Analysis of 2014 Local Elections of Turkey

Abstract

Turkey entered into 2014 elections with the biggest corruption allegations throughout its history. Oppressions, prohibitions and violations of law were intertwined in the election campaigns. Public power, money power and media power were mobilised by breaking the rules to determine the election results. It was an election period in which electorate was polarised and electoral realignment was deadlocked. From many respects, these elections have the characteristics of a political science laboratory and particularly, of a case study which will provide better insight into the reactions of religious conservative voters against the corruptions. These elections clearly exemplify that ruling power that has been used for the polarisation of electorates and manipulation of the right to information has decreased the ratio of the loss of votes for the ruling party.

I. Introduction

Turkish electorates went to the polls on 30 March 2014 for the local elections. The Supreme Election Committee (YSK) determined 1 January 2014 as the start of elections and stated that until the end of elections (30 March 2014) written and visual media would not release single-sided, partial publications (YSK, 2013a). Nevertheless, the 17 December “Bribery and Corruption Operations” shook the agenda and the elections atmosphere has begun since then.

Political parties carried out intensive election campaign and their electorates actively supported their efforts. Some public meetings were witnessed to gather around 100,000 people and every avenue and street got covered with flags of political parties.

The Chairman of AKP and the Prime Minister Erdoğan organised 60 public meetings in 56 cities, whereas the leader of the main opposition party, the Republican Party (CHP), Kılıçdaroğlu organised 109 public meetings in 60 different cities. The leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Bahçeli held 306 public meetings in 45 cities, 246 districts and 15 towns and conducted face to face relations with variety of groups for his election campaign (1). The co-chairman of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which mainly addresses the Kurdish electorates, Demirtaş on the other hand organised 80 public meetings in 22 different cities (Milliyet, 15 April 2014).

Media was separated according to parties and demonstrated great attention to election campaign and public meetings of political leaders were broadcasted live on TVs.

The leader of MHP used a relatively mild tone and called especially youth to stay remote to violence and street movements and mentioned that the Prime Minister must be brought to account before the jurisdiction as he would not be able to cover up claims of bribery and corruption. The leader of CHP, on the other hand, repeatedly criticised the government due to the bribery and corruption claims and declared statements like “the thief cannot be the prime minister”, “the liar cannot be the prime minister” in almost every political meeting while his electorates shouted the slogan of “Tayyip is the thief”. Although he criticised the leader of AKP with a harsh tone, Kılıçdaroğlu softened his tone when he addressed the electorates of AKP as he called them “My honourable citizens who vote for AKP”. The co-chairman of BDP, Demirtaş criticised for bribery and corruption and mainly mentioned the “Peace Process”. The Prime Minister and the Chairman of AKP, Erdoğan on the other hand, claimed that himself and his party was at the centre of a plot by illegal gangs around the state and repeatedly dismissed all claims of bribery and corruption as they were false and asserted tape recordings to be “montaged” without providing any concrete proof. The group that he consistently accused to be “Parallel Structure” in the state is Fethullah Gülen cemaat (gemeinschaft) with whom his party has been collaborating for a decade. The Prime Minister also accused the opposition to be the partner of this parallel structure as they underlined the claims of bribery and corruption.

Economic issues almost never came to the fore during the election campaigns, political parties barely mentioned their projects about the local governance and general political agendas, instead all the time focused on the bribery and corruption allegations.

II. Turkey’s Agenda During the Election Period

On 17 December, some prosecutors and police commissioners started the legal operation against sons of three ministers, the general director of a public bank, a mayor and several businessmen in İstanbul. TV channels focused on this operation; 1 million dollar which was found in the house of a ministers’ son, 7 steel safe boxes and 4.5 million dollars found in empty shoe boxes in the house of the general director of a public bank were all broadcasted on TVs [2]. The newspapers gave their full page to this operation on the following day. The headline of “3 SONS OF MINISTERS and 3 BRIBERY BUSTS” of one newspaper, the call for resignation by the political opposition, the Prime Minister’s aggressive reaction from the first day of allegations, the pictures of operation covered the first pages of all newspapers with different tones and inclinations (Hürriyet, 18 December 2013).

On 25 December, another operation shook the country once more. This time Bilal Erdoğan, the son of the Prime Minister, stood in the centre of operation. However, the Prime Minister took the necessary actions before the operation and the instructions of prosecutors (Sözcü, 27 December 2013) for investigating his house, interrogation was never realised [3]. Then tape recordings of 5 different phone calls which have been claimed to belong to the conversations between the Prime Minister and his son on 17-18 December were published on the social media. On those recordings the Prime Minister asked his son to transfer the money from his house to another place and his son claimed that still 30 million Euros in cash remained after the transfer that took a day (Birgün, 26 February 2014).

Videos belonging to both operations were shown on some TV channels whereas new tape recordings erupted almost every day and were shared on the social media until the Election Day.

Prosecutors worked for two years, collected data, legally wiretapped, monitored suspected people and formed their cases. The operation was not solely related to sons of ministers. It was directly related to the prime minister and his four ministers. Iranian Reza Zarrab who was claimed to be a part of trafficking of illicit Money, Yasin El-Kadı who was on the terrorist list of the USA because he was thought to finance El-Qaida until recently and his relationship with the Prime Minister and four ministers, alleged bribery between them, five hundred thousand dollars that were placed under a chocolate plate sent by Reza Zarrab to one minister and his gift watch that is priced at seven hundred thousand Turkish Liras (198.000 Euros) to another minister, the donation of hundreds of billions dollars for Youth and Education Service Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), the foundation directed by Prime Minister’s daughters and sons and exempted from tax by the Council of Ministers (Sözcü, 1 February 2014), siz hundred and thirty million dollars of bribe that the fifth minister collected from businessmen for the Prime Minister under the public tender, corruption in reconstruction and numerous luxury villas belonging to the Prime Minister and his relatives etc., namely the largest bribery and corruption claims of the modern Turkish state defined the main agenda of the elections in the country.

Tape recordings that were uploaded and shared on the social media illustrated the picture of how the country is governed. The problem is not only about corruption. According to these recordings, the Prime Minister gave the public tenders to the businessmen that he prefers, intervened the court decisions and tried to put the media patron in the jail, directly intervened the newspapers and TV channels and blocked news that he did not like. Moreover, despite his claims of tape recordings to be “montaged” he then admitted those three claims to be true (Hürriyet, 12 February 2014; Bugün, 6 March 2014). According to tape recordings, the Prime Minister himself made the video of the leader of opposition party to be publicly broadcasted. That video made the CHP’s former leader resign from his chair. Furthermore, the delivery of weapons and military materials to Nigeria and Syrian opposition powers, the recording of the top-secret meeting about the plots to wage a war against Syria became public on the social media.

While the most of those tape recordings were legal, some of them were not. It was understood that the illegal recordings were not made only by the opposition to the government but by the ruling party itself when they released tapes of Fethullah Gülen.

Against all those claims and operations, the Prime Minister used his public authority to defend himself; he took precautions right after the 17 December operations began. He urged his son to transfer all the cash money, gave the order to the Minister of Justice to tell High Court Chief Prosecutor to dismiss prosecutors who were in charge, to alter places of duty of hundreds of judges and prosecutors, and gave orders to the High Court Chief Prosecutor of İzmir to control operations in this city. Regulations which shape the relations between the prosecutors and police commissioners attempted to be changed as opposed to the main principles of the state of law, a brand new law was enacted to change the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors entirely. Although the president of the republic found this law inconsistent with the constitution on 15 different points, he approved it (Radikal, 26 February 2014). Even if the Constitutional Court cancelled many clauses of the law a month and a half later, the government put those changes into practice until that time since the decisions of the Constitutional Court cannot be retroactive. Meanwhile, sons of ministers, the general director of the public bank, the mayor and business men including Reza Zarrab were all released and nobody remained to be detained within these allegations.

On the law enforcement agency, namely the police force, thousands of police and the directors were dismissed or their places of duty were changed.

Interventions of political power to the jurisdiction became an infringement of constitution (Avcı, 27 January, 2014), and mechanisms for independent judiciary against the political authorities became extinct.

Summary of proceedings that were prepared by prosecutors were shortened and re-written by recently appointed prosecutors and proceedings in the Parliament were postponed to after elections (4).After the deposal of the first prosecutors, the ongoing absence of resolution about the Prime Minister and the fifth minister mentioned in the corruption allegations demonstrates the diffidence of jurisdiction.

According to the constitution, deputies and ministers cannot be interrogated; police do not have a warrant to search them or their homes; they cannot be arrested and judged. In order to be judged, the decision must be taken by the Parliament (Constitution m.83, 100). Since the majority belongs to the ruling party in the Parliament, it seems impossible to judge those ministers.

III. Conditions of the Political Competition in Turkey

This issue can be analysed under three specific lines:

i. The Income of Political Parties

Political parties in Turkey are financed either through exclusive donations and aids or public expenditures by the state. Exclusive, private donations can never be a sufficient financial source for the political parties. Therefore, unless political parties get state treasury grants, they cannot achieve success.

The amount of state treasury grants that political parties get is designated through law. In other words, the ruling party decides the amount of the grant each political party receives from the state treasury.

According to the recent regulations, among 27 political parties which were eligible to enter elections in 2014 only 3 of them received state treasury grants. Out of those three parties, AKP got 177.1 million Turkish Lira (£50.300.000), CHP received 92,3 million TL (£26.200.000) and MHP got 46.2 million TL (£13.100.000) of grants from the state treasury (TRTHaber, 10 January 2014). Other parties, including BDP that has a group in the parliament, did not get any share from the treasury grants because the amendment to political parties’ law passed by the AK Parti in 2005 has been precluding BDP from receiving state treasury grants (Tan, 16.10.2012).

The ruling party which enjoyed the highest share from the state treasury utilised the state’s and municipalities’ means and donations from private businessmen. Although it is against the law, the Prime Minister used the public plane and means during his political campaign while he addressed the crowds of thousands a part of which were formed by his private security guards on the basis of security concerns. Apart from electoral period, his crowds of security guards have always existed (Konhaber, 16.06.2013).

ii. Political Parties and Media

Political parties need media to increase their votes. Powerful media support brings the effective propaganda, therefore better advertising to the public. After excessive amounts of tax penalty given to a popular media company in 2009, every newspaper, radio and TV channels came under the heavy pressure of the government (Hürriyet, 15 April 2014).

There are substantial amount of data about the extent of the unofficial (non-recorded) economy. Though researchers found out different statistics, according to many of them unregistered economic activities consist more than 40% of the GDP (Acar and Aydın, 2011:51). Therefore, tax auditing being in the first place, every public inspection became arbitrary and a stick for the ruling party to punish whoever it wants as the common belief suggests.

Public auditing is not the only tool for the existing government while it reinforces its power over the media. Media patrons are rewarded with public tenders, pro-government capitalists were given support to own media organizations, TV channels and newspapers which were confiscated by the government were sold to pro-government businessmen to create the media “for” the government. For instance, Akşam and Güneş newspapers that were owned by a businessman before the compulsory acquisition together with Sky360 TV channel were sold to Ethem Sancak who is known to be close to the prime minister; additionally ATV television channel and Sabah newspapers that were again owned by a businessman before the compulsory acquisition were sold to Kalyon Construction Firm which is again close to the prime minister. Though, the channels and newspaper owned by Gülen movement turned to become an opposition against the government, the big portion of the media is still pro-ruling party.

Though there is a punishment mechanism for the media companies if they do not broadcast neutral, the punishment itself is not very deterrent as it is only to impose TV channels to broadcast a documentary. Relevant examples can better explain the situation. According to the reports of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK), during a week between 15.03.2014 and 21.03.2014,TRT Türk reserved 976 minutes for the AKP while they gave 19 minutes to the MHP and 9 minutes 30 seconds to the CHP for their election campaigns (RTÜK, 2014a). ÜLKE TV, a private TV channel, on the other hand, broadcasted 14 public meetings of the ruling party totalling live for 873 minutes whereas it never documented other parties’ campaigns (RTÜK, 2014b).

The same report illustrates that the problem is not only about the duration of broadcasts biasedly reserved for each political party but also the content of programs. Based on my analysis of RTÜK’s reports, TV channels which criticised the government due to the corruption corresponds to only 20% of total ratings for all TV channels. All other TV channels adapted pro-government stance.

iii. The Pressure From the Ruling Party and Prohibitions

According to the common belief today, the Prime Minister controls not only the executive organ but also legislation and jurisdiction. Along with the media companies, businessmen and civil society organisations are all quiet. Even citizens hesitate to criticise the government due to the unlawful wiretappings under the cover of plotted legal reasons (Yenişafak, 24 February; Star, 24 February 2014). The biggest labour union confederation TÜRK-İŞ, Chamber of Agriculture, Chamber of Artisans and Turkish Union of Chambers, whose protestations constituted the nightmares of previous governments before, have not been able to criticise and protest the government for many years.

Twitter was banned right before the elections (Hürriyet, 21 March 2014). The purpose was to take opposition under control. After the government prohibited tape recordings from being broadcasted on TVs, the social media became the only area to share them, thus became a main media organ. Despite the banning of Twitter, users bypassed these restrictions by using different countries IPs, servers, despite the fact that the service got much slower. As an irony that should be mentioned, the President of the Republic Abdullah Gül, who approved the law which banned Twitter, although he indicated that the proposed law should have been adjusted, contradicted himself as he used Twitter by utilizing different IP addresses and bypassed the Turkish government’s prohibition.

On the social media, the rumour about the Prime Minister’s shocking video to be exhibited five days before the elections day spread, thus YouTube was banned as well (Radikal, 27 March 2014).

Prohibitions might cause the loss of votes. However, in Turkey the reaction of voters is not in this direction. Based on a post-elections questionnaire, AKP electors were not affected by tapes and the banning of Twitter. Only 3.6 % of interviewees told that they changed their votes after tape recordings broke out. 11.9% said that they were affected by those scandals but they increased their support towards their political party. 82.3% of interviewees on the other hand, stated that they were not influenced by tapes and continued to give their support to their parties. (Radikal, 1 April 2014). AKP electors who are almost unaffected by the prohibitions, would probably have been affected by the publications if the media had been free.

Citizens went to the polls and gave their votes under the atmosphere of corruption rumours and prohibitions.

IV. Assessing the Election Results

i. Votes That Political Parties Won and Their Performances

AKP was founded in 2001 and became the ruling party in 2002, on the first year they entered elections. Between 2002 and 2014, it became the first party in three general and three local elections. The results of recent elections along with comparison of four parties that won highest votes can be seen here (CİHAN HA, 2014):

2002 2004* 2007 2009* 2011 2014*
AKP 34.3 41.7 46.6 38.8 49.8 43.0
CHP 19.4 18.2 20.9 23.1 26.0 24.3
MHP 8.4 10.5 14.3 16.1 13.0 18.3
BDP** - - - 5.7 - 6.6

*Results of local elections illustrate the elections for the provincial council in 2004 and 2009; elections for municipal council and provincial council in 2014

**The votes of BDP and HDP are summed up in 2014 elections

***The Chart has been designed by benefiting from the data of TUIK and YSK.

Targeting the Kurdish votes, BDP in the East and in HDP in the West entered the 2014 elections. The expectation of the substantial increase in their votes due to the “Peace Process” did not come through. They strengthened their position in the Eastern part of Southeast Turkey and the southern cities in the Eastern Region.

MHP, on the other hand, came out better off as they increased their votes by 5.3%. It was seen that AKP electors can only turn their heads to other right wing party as opposed to the left. MHP gained the control of provincial municipalities in the Eastern, Mediterranean, Aegean and Western Black Sea regions while they got none in the Eastern Black Sea, Southeastern, Central Anatolian regions. Unlike in the regions where they were traditionally robust, they became relatively successful in the regions once the previous right wing parties were ruling.

CHP, the main opposition party won 40.05%, 43.83% and 49.64% of votes in three most crowded cities respectively Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Nevertheless, they were not able to strengthen their control of provincial councils and municipal councils. Except Ankara and Eskişehir, they remained weak in the Central Anatolia, Eastern and Southeastern Anatolian.

Although AKP lost 6.8% of its votes comparing to the previous elections, the impact of corruption and bribery claims was rather limited. It is evident that by undemocratic means, the Prime Minister overcame the storm that any democratic leader could handle, thus used the public support for his case. Unlike three other political parties, the AKP remained the only that gets votes from every region in the country.

Here, it would be worth to underline the fact about 2014 elections. Comparing the previous elections, 2014 elections became the most suspicious as there are numerous claims of tricks. Political parties raised an objection to the results in several cities. Debates around boards of elections’ decisions still remain.

ii. Developments That Should Have Decreased Votes of the Ruling Party

Many incidents that would have made the ruling party lose its votes took place between two elections terms (2011-2014). Above all, economy is not better off compared to 2011. Comparing to significant economic growth levels of 9.2% in 2010 and 8.8% in 2011, the growth was only about 2.2% in 2012 and 4.0% in 2013 (Ministry of Development). Taking the rumours of Prime Minister’s intervening impact on statistical data aside, the level of economic growth in 2 years prior to elections are far less than the 50 years of average growth in Turkey. Inflation and unemployment rates are stable, though.

In addition to economy, the government was influenced by Gezi protests as well. Gezi Park was a democratic movement realized by disorganized young citizens. While Prime Minister Erdoğan’s reactions and his manner increased the concern and the tension, they also solidified his place in his electors’ eyes. Meanwhile, the death of Berkin Elvan, who was hit by gas canister shot by the police from a short distance while he was on the street to buy bread, on the first half of March reminded people of Gezi protests and Prime Minister’s discriminator attitudes. In a similar manner, the Prime Minister had claimed during Gezi Park movement that the daughter in law, wearing a head scarf, of a mayor of AKP was subjected to humiliation and violence by protestors in İstanbul, Kabataş while she was carrying her baby. The Prime Minister also claimed that there are video images about this issue to provoke his supporters against Gezi protestors. Nevertheless, all his claims turned out to be false as the real video images were released. Despite all, Erdoğan continued his discriminative and harsh tone to solidify the tie between him and his supporters against Gezi movement.

The government’s perspective on Kurdish issue together with the ‘Peace Process’ whose content has not been explained officially have generated both a hope for those in the Eastern part and a concern about the territorial indivisibility of the country for the majority of the electorates in the Western part.

Another issue that should have impacted the government was the match-fixing case in football. The match-fixing case against Fenerbahçe, one of the major sports clubs in Turkey, prevented them to compete in European competitions and had their president in prison. The Prime Minister was accused when Fenerbahçe supporters protested the case.

The foreign policy of the government should have been another concern for the ruling party as it contradicts the national vision movement advocates who have shared their support with the government since the foundation of the party. These supporters have always referred the massacres of Muslim populations in Palestine, Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya and all over the world. They were expected to question and react against shedding blood in the Middle East particularly after Erdogan’s support towards the Arab Spring and in Syria connected to Al-Qaeda. Once against Turkey’s membership to NATO, this group did never criticize Turkey’s role in bombing of Libya by NATO powers, Erdoğan’s efforts to repeat it in Syria and NATO’s deployment of Patriot Missiles and radar system in Turkey illustrated the fact that those national vision movement supporters abandoned their position and moved Erdoğan’s camp. In this change, the role of media is undeniable. 98% of the media broadcasts including the ones owned by Gülen community support the foreign policy vision of the government(5). Particularly conservative media foundations stand the prime minister up for his Middle East policies (6). Islamist authors and journalists who are pro-Erdoğan and generally the media manipulated people’s opinion with their biased comments and TV programs. As a result, those people became alienated with their ideology and continued to their support to the government.

Recent claims of corruption and bribery should have been other factors to weaken the government, as they cannot be acceptable in a democratic state of law. Frankly, all those developments could put an end any political party.

iii. AKP’s Range of Votes and Economy

Taking each of six elections they entered it is evident that AKP’s range of votes has been around 40%. The biggest factor which increases its votes has been the economic growth. AKP, greatly utilized the settings after 1999 earthquake and 2001 financial crisis and became the ruling party in 2002 elections by winning 34.3% of votes. AKP managed to increase its votes with 41.7% in 2004 and 46.6% in 2007 thanks to the sound economic growth with of 6.9% during years between 2003 and 2007. The table below shows the rates of the average growth before four elections and AKP’s increase in its votes in those elections of 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014 respectively.

2003-2007 2008-2009 2010-2011 2012-2013
GROWTH (%) 6.9 - 2.05 9 3.1
VOTES FOR AKP (%) 46.6 38.8 49.8 43.0

*Retrieved from Ministry of Development, TUIK and YSK

As clearly seen from the table, the economic growth and increase in votes for AKP goes in parallel in each other. When the economic boost was experienced in 2011 the AKP won the highest level of votes by 49.8%. Its votes went down below the 40% (38.8%) in 2009 elections when the economic growth significantly declined. 2009 was also the year when the unemployment rate remained at the highest with 14%. 2014 on the other hand, stands in between 2011 and 2009 elections with the growth of 3.1% and level of votes with 43.0%.

The continuous increase in personal debts during 2000 intensified the public search for stability. As a result of previous financial crises’ effects, people choose to vote for the robust party because the debtors who cannot pay their instalments on time due to the financial crisis stuck in a difficult situation. In Turkey, financial crises remind bad memories to the debtors. The AKP era is a term of government when the amount of bank credits used by both consumers and firms has significantly increased. From 2002 when the total credits were 32,5 billion Turkish liras (€ 9.2 billion) to March 2012 when they became 916,8 billion Turkish liras (€ 260 billion), the total bank credits increased by 28 times. Accordingly, the rise in consumer credits in the same period is 106 times. Likewise, foreign debt in the private sector increased from 43 billion dollars to 267 billion dollars during 2002-2013 (Ministry of Development, 2 May 2014). This means nothing but the proliferation of indebtedness. In Turkey, the electorates perceive strong government as the source of stability whereas they regard coalition governments preceding the AKP as the reminders for financial crises.

iv. Difficulty of Pulling Down the Votes for AKP Under 40%

The main question is why the lowest level has been 40%. Take for instance 2009 elections. Why the economic crisis, the highest rate of unemployment decreased AKP’s votes only to 38.8% instead of 18% or 28%. Or, why was the impact of strongest corruption and bribery claims against the government that limited?

The domination of the government over the media and biased broadcasts has been very influential. TV commentators, journalists who conveyed the decayed economy as the “stability” ,the false foreign policy as the “prestige” and the corruptions as “slander” made a big impact on manipulation of public opinion.

Besides, the Prime Minister’s discriminative and harsh manner brought about the polarization and created the “perception of threat” together with “interlocking” among electors (Akyol, 31 March 2014). Therefore, the interchange of votes between parties stayed very limited.

On the other hand, there is a need of sociological analysis to evaluate why the impact of corruption claims remained narrow. To what extent the corruption affect the behaviour of electors? According to studies, different nations react differently against the perception of corruption. For instance, while the Denmark stands as the 1st according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, while Turkey is the 53th and Moldova the 102nd (Transparency International, 2013). Although Tucker described Turkey as better than Moldova on this index (Tucker, December 26, 2013), 2014 elections has created a concrete image out of it. There are reasons. Electors do not hold the perception that the corrupted money is their own money. First and foremost, 70% of tax revenues are provided by indirect taxes (Under secretariat of Treasury) while most of the direct tax is collected through government’s stoppage. Therefore, people do not feel that they are the financier for the public spending (Akdoğan, 1985: 233); instead they believe that government always spends for them. Direct aid and social expenditures solidify this common understanding.

It should not be disregarded that supporters of political parties form their own social groups. Taking AKP as an example, communities of mosque, other communities, other cemaats (gemeinschaft) and religious groups, associations and pious foundation and all their supporters who hold Islamic values, follow Islamic newspapers and journals embrace the ruling party and intensified the culture of internalizing the party. Furthermore, millions of public officers who seek to be promoted or having titles, many people seeking for jobs or solutions solidified their relations with groups around the ruling party. These groups of people who are undeniably pro-government by enhancing the party’s internalization process require another sociological study. However, it should be noted that these emotional and sociological ties will not disappear immediate after malpractice of government.

In 83 thousand mosques which belong to the Directorate of Religious Affairs, traditional khutbah of Friday was given to the attendees. Particularly, the one which was given two days before the elections under the name of “Freedom and Responsibility” relieved the government and gave the message of restrictions over twitter and youtube (Taraf, 29 March 2014).

v. Two-Party System and the Impact of Results of Elections

Nonetheless, these explanations do not entirely clarify how the AKP came to the power in 2002 elections with 34.3% of votes and increased its votes above of 40%. To explain all factors, we need to examine the history of Turkish Political System which brought about AKP. However, this study is limited and cannot go in detail with it. Briefly, three points should be referred. First, AKP was founded by people whose votes equated to 20% of total votes and who believed that the Welfare Party and the Virtue Party were unjustly closed by the Constitutional Court. Second, two major crises prior to 2002 elections, namely the 1999 Earthquake and 2001 Financial Crisis kept two central right parties (ANAP and DYP) to be under the election threshold of 10%. Third, post-1980 elections law compelled the country to switch to the two-party system. According to Duverger, countries with the two-party systems have the one round of majority while countries with the system of majority have the two-party system. Exceptions can only be explained with specific cases (Duverger, 1974: 290; Özbudun, 1974: 139). Perhaps not with the same impact, it is evident that post-1980 political environment and the election threshold created a similar fashion in Turkey. In other words, 10% of election threshold prevent in number of parties to be in the parliament and is the cause of their gradual disappearing. Even so, political parties who were the descendant of pre-1980’s parties were able to survive during 1980’s and 90’s. However, with t2002 elections, closure of two above mentioned parties by the Constitutional Court and two major crises, only two people, AKP and CHP could enter the parliament. Due to the fact that previous center-right parties could exceed the election threshold, a certain part of their votes became the votes for AKP. Thus, AKP reached the 40% of votes range. Taking parliamentary elections into account, it can be seen that in 2002 elections the total votes of the political parties which could not enter the parliament were 46%, while it reduced to 13% in 2007 elections and became 5% in 2011 elections.

It means that AKP gained the votes of central right parties who could not overcome the election threshold and exceeded the 40% of total votes. Thus, the bottom end of these parties disappeared and joined the AKP basis. The fact that there are four represented political parties in the parliament after 2007 and 2011 elections do not refute the reality of ongoing two-party system in Turkey. Hence, the BDP cannot enter parliamentary elections as a whole due to the election threshold. Instead, its deputies enter in the parliament as independent deputies. The other fact that the Kurdish issue which is raison d’etre of BDP increases the vote rate of Turkish nationalist party MHP and contributes to its growing strong representation in the Assembly

To sum, despite the enforcement of two-party system through elections law, four political parties of which their electorates are threatened and pressured, are represented in the Parliament. In 2014 local elections, those four parties again were able to exist. After the determination of results, Prime Minister Erdoğan went out to the balcony of central office of his party, saluted the electorates holding hands with his family members mentioned in the corruption allegations while his speech demonstrated the signals for the continuity of existing polarization.

V. The Results of Some Public Opinion Polls

Some research companies evaluated the elections results with their surveys. Two of them are summarized below in order to test our results.

GEZİCİ Research Company conducted a research including 5292 participants in seven geographical regions of Turkey during 22-23 March 2014 (Gezici Research, Nisan 2014). Accordingly, the AKP supporters regard the actions of their party, their chairman, the other parties’ perspectives on conservatism and their ideological/ political opinions as the reason for voting. On the other hand, the electorates of opposition parties (CHP, MHP, BDP) emphasize their disapproval of the government, their ideological/ political opinions and political identities as the reason for voting. According to GEZİCİ, the 20 % of the population vote for their parties reluctantly. Comparing to men, less educated and less earned people and people from the Eastern part; women, well educated people with more income and people from the Western part vote much more reluctantly. This result points out a necessity for a new party.

KONDA Research Company conducted a more extensive research based on twelve regions including 3067 participants during 22-23 March 2014 (Konda, 16 April 2014). According to KONDA, the fluidity of the votes replaced from the AKP electorates to MHP is more than the ones happened between CHP-MHP (p.12).

The 54% of CHP electorates, the 51% of AKP electorates and 64% of indecisive electorates are constituted by women whereas men generate 60% of MHP electorates and 52% of BDP electorates (p.15). The lowest ratio of AKP votes comes from 18-28 group of age while both MHP and BDP receive the highest ratio of their votes from the same group of age (p.17). Similar to the education profile of BDP electorates, the ratio of AKP votes in the population of high school and university graduates is less than the population average. On the other hand, the electorates of CHP and MHP have educational backgrounds above the average of Turkey (p.18).

The 40% of the AKP votes derive from housewives (p.21).

In KONDA research, the 80% of the subjects identified themselves as Turks, the 13% of them identified themselves as Kurds and 2% of them identified themselves as Zaza. Among BDP voters, the 98% of them constitutes Kurds and Zazas while among MHP voters, the 92% of them constitutes Turks and only the 3% of them are Kurds (p.22).

Religious conservatives generate 43% of the AKP voters and 35% of the BDP voters that is above the average of Turkey whereas traditional conservatives constitute 52% of the MHP voters and modernists constitute 55% of the CHP voters (p.25). Among the ones who and whose wives do not veil themselves, 47% of them vote for CHP while 22% of them vote for AKP. Despite the high support by those wearing headscarves to AKP, BDP constituents with headscarves also point out a high proportion by 72% (p.26).

The 23% of the total electorates believe that economy is going well. This ratio corresponds to 39% for the AKP voters, 8% for the CHP voters, %13 for the MHP voters and 12% for the BDP voters.

Although the 62% of the total electorates rely on the corruption allegations, %38 of them does not believe so. The 75 % of the AKP voters does not give credence to the corruption allegations while the 25 of them tells that they believe in the allegations (7). Most of the opposition parties’ voters rely on the corruption allegations (p.34).

The reasons of the electorates to vote for the AKP are the services, economic stability provided by the party, having faith in the party’s leader and the party’s respect for the religions. On the other hand, the CHP constituents regard their reasons to choose CHP as being Kemalists, anti-AKP and as the party’s incorruptibility. All of the MHP voters identify themselves as nationalist/ idealist. Another reason for their choice is having faith in the party and the leader (p. 46-50).

According to KONDA, the increase in AKP’s votes since the first elections until today depends on the constant decrease in the votes of parties that could not be represented at the Assembly and the electoral realignment from those parties, most of which tend to be right-wing, to the ruling party (p.53). The sole party that can receive votes from every region of Turkey with high ratios is the AK party. The other parties seem weak in some regions of the country. Therefore, there is no other party that can compete against the ruling party throughout the country (p.75). In the last two years, AKP has been losing its potential votes for various reasons but opposition parties could not leap forward. In every incident, the electorate displeased with the ruling party could not vote for another party. In terms of KONDA research, these findings indicate the lack of competition (p.76).

VI. Conclusion

89% of 52.6 million electorates entered in the local elections on 30 March 2014. Thus, we have experienced the highest level of political participation in elections since 20 years. Tense political campaigns between the ruling and opposition parties and the fact that the elections became like a payoff were the main causes of this high volume of participation.

Another reason which raised the importance of local elections is that it is the first election of three important turning points which might shape the political appearance of Turkey. In the coming August, for the first time the public will elect the President of the Republic. Next year though, parliamentary elections will take place.

Although 27 political parties were legally eligible to enter the parliament, only four of them won the control of provincial municipalities on March 30. Among those parties, AKP received 43% of the votes for the provincial and town council elections, CHP received 24.3% of them (CHP also received 31% of the votes for mayorship), MHP received 18.3% of them and BDP/HDP received 6.6% of them. Additionally, SP which cannot be represented at the Assembly took 2.9% of these votes. Comparing to the previous election, AKP lost 6.8% of its votes whereas MHP increased its votes by 5.3%.

For these elections in which CHP and BDP could not achieve to increase their votes, it might be argued that such votes detached from AKP canalized to MHP and SP which is supported by religious conservatives and that electoral realignment from AKP to CHP and BDP did not take place.

AKP won 18 metropolitan municipalities while this number corresponds to 6 for CHP, 3 for MHP and 3 (one of them is independent) for BDP. In other municipalities, AKP won 799 mayorships, CHP won 226 of them, MHP won 166 of them, BDP won 97 of them and SP won 27 mayorships. 13 mayorship elections were annulled in order to provide re-elections.

From previous elections to this (2011-2014), there have been serious developments which must have caused a loss of AKP’s votes. First of all, economic conditions are not that good in current elections. The government entered into 2011 elections with high growth rates such as 9.2% growth rate of 2010 and 8.8% growth rate of 2011. Correspondingly, 2.2% of the growth rate of 2012 and 4% of growth rate of 2013, which significantly go down below the annual growth average of the 50 years of Republic history, emerged as the new growth rates towards March 2014 elections. Additionally, the developments happened in the last two years such as Gezi protests, the increasing concerns in the West towards Kurdish issue, the government’s political stand for the bloody incidents happened in the Middle East, bribery and the corruption allegations, repressive actions against freedoms and state of law are the ones which should shake the government at its core. Particularly, bribery and the corruption allegations gave the prime minister and the cabinet a deep shock led to the resignations of three ministers and the changes of ten ministers (Hürriyet, 26 December 2013).

Each of the mentioned incidents was so important that might have prevented the ruling party from escaping unharmed. However, Prime Minister achieved to remain almost unharmed in this difficult elections period through public power, financial advantages, the bans on social media and civil society organizations and his repressive attitude which caused polarization of the electorates. Comparing to the previous elections, the ruling party has lost only 6.8 point of its votes and became the biggest party again by receiving the 43% of the votes. Therefore, unlike any democrat leader who would not achieve, Prime minister rode out the storm by resorting to antidemocratic methods and was backed by voters’ support.

Now, there is one more difficult exam that the ruling party, which completed the first of three important elections almost unharmed under the pressures of the corruption allegations, needs to pass. This exam is presidential elections which will take place in August 2014 and will also have an impact on 2015 general elections. The ratio of the votes above the 50%is required to pass this exam. In case of the win of the presidential elections by the candidate or by one of the candidates of the opposition parties, jurisdiction which has been under the pressure of the prime minister may become independent again; bribery and corruption allegations together with unconstitutional implementations which have been put into practice against the state of law may deeply influence the prime minister and his party then.

Associate Professor Abdüllatif Şener, Former State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister

Please cite this publication as follows:

Şener, Abdüllatif (May, 2014), “The Analysis of 2014 Local Elections of Turkey”, Vol. III, Issue 5, pp.19-37, Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=6089)

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Endnotes

[1] Numbers were retrieved from MHP Central Office.

[2] After the elections, based on the indictment of prosecutor some newspapers claimed that the amount of money was 6 million dollars instead of 4.5 million dollars: http://www.taraf.com.tr/haber-suleymanin-sihirli-kutusu-152343/

[3] Prime Minister’s son, Bilal Erdoğan disobeyed the prosecutor’s call for interrogation as “suspicious”, however he then went to the interrogation as “witness” after the prosecutor of the case was changed.

[4] Investigation resolutions about four ministers were discussed in plenary session on 05.05.2014 after the elections and the foundation of an investigation commission was decided. After the completion of the report by the commission, there will be a re-discussion in plenary session and in terms of this meeting, the question of whether or not those ministers would be sent to Supreme Court will be decided. Since the ruling party’s deputies constitute the majority of the Assembly, trials would probably be rejected.

[5] Apart from a few media organizations such as Halk TV, Ulusal Kanal tv channels and Sözcü, Aydınlık, Cumhuriyet newspapers, there is almost no media foundation that opposes to government’s Middle East policies.

[6] Hüsnü Mahalli who is the most popular expert with his comments on Middle East policies in these media foundations, became a totally prohibited person who could not find a tv channel to talk or a newspaper to write after the Arab Spring.

[7] In my opinion, most of those who say that they do not believe in the corruption allegations admit the corruptions in reality but reject them due to partisanship.


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