Turkish society has surrendered to futility and hopelessness. As the government exploits the opposition’s disarray, the opposition has yet to generate strong hope and enthusiasm.
Although the rift between realities of life and politics is supposed to be closing, it is widening once again as the elections approach.
The opposition has failed to change the rules, style and agenda of politics. It has not yet produced a major mental break against the policies and goals of the government.
The policies that have been agreed upon within the opposition bloc so far have yet to be “socialized.” It has not been explained how the coming together of these (six) parties from different identities and ideological currents is in itself good for the construction of democracy.
Since the Nation Alliance has neither a common political strategy nor a communication strategy based on it, it is trying to move forward with scattered and sloppy discourse campaigns. This situation prevents confidence building in the opposition bloc, that it can bring change without chaos and confusion after the elections.
Elections have become a choice of “continue with Erdoğan or not.” If recent voter trends continue, no alliance will be able to win a parliamentary majority. Therefore the opposition should aim to win the presidential election in the first round.
Erdoğan is trying to increase his current vote, which has fallen to 21-22 million, to 27 million. Kılıçdaroğlu meanwhile is trying to get 27 million out of a potential 31 million votes.
But Kılıçdaroğlu is not alone in this potential vote pool. There are two other candidates: Muharrem İnce and Sinan Oğan. According to publicly available surveys, Muharrem İnce’s vote has increased significantly.
According to some calculations, if the voter turnout is around 85 percent we will see a distribution of roughly 53-54 million valid votes on election night. If Muharrem İnce’s gets more than 6 percent of the vote it will prevent Kılıçdaroğlu from getting the 27 million he needs, and the election will go to a second round.
It is therefore likely that the election will be won in the second round. It is also likely that İnce, who says he wants to get rid of Erdoğan’s, will call for his voters to vote for Kılıçdaroğlu in the second round.
However, we can’t assume that all those who voted for İnce will vote for Kılıçdaroğlu in the second round. If no party or alliance is expected to have a parliamentary majority after the May 14 elections, it may cause a large part of the electorate to seek stability and security in the second round.
This impulse may work against the opposition, which is going to the elections with seven different vice presidential candidates, with some unresolved political and emotional problems—all of which are reflected in the discourse of the campaigns.
Furthermore, Erdogan will be heading into the elections with the state mechanisms behind him, including every single member of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) as well as the security apparatus. His political rhetoric will be entirely laced with religious references, may have a better chance in the second round.
A second round of elections, with tensions rising between each, may result in more difficulty -and a further deepening of social fault lines.
Therefore, each and every actor in the opposition needs to rethink what they have done and what they will do. Since the election has turned into an election of “anti-Erdoğanism vs. pro-Erdoğanism,” the communication strategies should be shaped accordingly. The Nation Alliance needs to realize that it is not the sole representative of anti-Erdoğanism. From now on, voters who will be motivated by anti-Erdoğan sentiment will have the choice of Kılıçdaroğlu or İnce for the presidential election.
According to a PANORAMATR survey conducted between March 13-18, 2023, Muharrem İnce’s vote in the presidential election reached 13 percent, while the votes of the Homeland Party (Memleket Partisi) that he leads reached 6.3 percent,
According to the same survey:
“More than half of the voters who say they will vote for İnce are under the age of 34, and one out of every two of İnce’s voters did not vote in the 2018 elections. Half of those who will vote for İnce are voters who define themselves as Atatürkists.”
This voter profile shows that İnce is getting votes from Kılıçdaroğlu’s potential voting bloc, that is, from the anti-Erdoğan camp.
The Hometown Party was polling at 1-2 percent in January surveys. It is now at 6 percent while Ince’s votes have increased to 13 percent. What happened?
One of the most important factors that will determine the outcome of the elections will be participation, especially of young voters. The policies and language of the government in the face of the earthquake disaster, followed by the prohibitive debate on the role of women in daily life, seems to have agitated the youth.
In the fall, a third of first-time voters and a quarter of voters under the age of 30 said they would not participate in the elections. These percentages have changed and now exceed 90 percent. It seems that young voters will be a decisive element in the elections.
Many predicted that the increase young people’s participation would strengthen the anti-Erdoğan bloc, and so it did. However, it is also clear that a significant number of them will not be voting for Kılıçdaroğlu and his party, the CHP, but for the Hometown Party and İnce.
If these voting rates and trends continue, the likelihood of the presidential election going to a second round will get stronger. In a nutshell, İnce holds the key to whether the election will go to a second round or not.
All research shows that young people are anxious and hopeless; they have no dreams and no idols. This disillusion surrounding the future makes some of them angry.
Anxiety has become an important emotion in the daily lives of both individuals and societies. In the metropoles and suburbs, individuals— especially young people—are driven towards radicalism, fanaticism and chauvinism.
İnce and the Hometown Party feed on this feeling. Its voters are composed of those who object to the CHP and to Kılıçdaroğlu as much as they object to the government. Until recently, this mass was divided between the (xenophobic) Victory Party (Zafer Partisi) and the Hometown Party, but now it seems to have consolidated behind İnce. His emotional reaction resonates with this group.
This political turmoil stemming from emotions will produce destructive results, unless we can produce a new sense of community in politics.
If the Nation Alliance and Kılıçdaroğlu, who have pledged to strengthen the sense of togetherness, cannot turn this goal into a collective commitment, and if the campaign continues to rely on populist rhetoric that is similar to that of the government, I am afraid that this possibility is not at all small.
This is a translation of a shortened text. You can find the original here.
The views and opinions expressed above are the author’s and do not reflect those of the Free Turkish Press.