Turnout in the May 14 elections reached 88.9 per cent, the highest level since 1991. This rate dropped to 84.2 per cent in the second round. The turnout rate, which fell below Turkey’s average in Southeastern and Northeastern Anatolia, Central Eastern Anatolia, and the Eastern Black Sea regions, increased as you moved west.
Turnout in the eastern regions, which decreased compared to the 2018 elections, also decreased in the second round of voting on May 28. The rate of invalid votes was also higher in the parliamentary elections, with the highest number of invalid votes coming from the eastern regions.
Looking at the course of change in voting rates over the years, it is clear that the AKP has returned to the 2002 vote, but it is also apparent that the votes lost by the AKP have not moved to the opposition bloc. Erdoğan managed to keep his voters within the People’s Alliance even though his own party lost votes.
To achieve this, he emphasized security and survival of the state and his opposition to leftist ideas and “terrorism,” played on voters’ fear of losing social benefits and gains, and argued that change would produce chaos and confusion.
He did all this with the instruments of power of the established order. He manipulated emotions. The election process was neither fair nor democratic, and the political process experienced intervention from all the apparatuses of the establishment.
We can multiply the elements, actors, perceptions and emotions affecting this process. Each of these undoubtedly had an impact to one degree or another. Erdoğan aimed to carry the election through to the second round; to mark a final victory in the second round, and he succeeded.
In the 2014 presidential election, Erdoğan had received 21 million votes. The 2014 election also had the highest number of non-voters. In 2018, Erdoğan’s vote increased to 26.3 million, but the MHP vote was added to the AKP vote.
This time he received 27.8 million votes, 5.5 million of which came from the MHP, 1.5 million from the Yeniden Refah Party (Welfare Again Party) and 0.5 million from the Büyük Birlik Party (Grand Unity Party).
While the number of voters increased by 15 per cent from 2014 to 2023, Erdoğan’s vote did not actually increase numerically. And all the opposition votes remained unchanged at around 25 million.
Let us also remember that in the 2017 referendum, the “yes” votes were 25.1 million and the “no” votes were 23.8 million.
In a way, no matter which election we look at, we have to observe that there is a division of 25 million on one side and 27 million voters on the other, and that this division is becoming more and more permanent.
The “right-wing political stream” started with the Democrat Party in 1950 and later disintegrated as the Turkist and Islamist parties became stronger. But with the AKP, the entire right-wing movement seems consolidated.
The Turkist/Nationalist movement, on the other hand, maintains its existence and its party [the MHP] at around 10 per cent. In a way, the Islamist movement has changed its style and dissolved the traditional right within itself, or expanded its scope.
Another way of reading the results of the elections so far has been to make sense of them in terms of traditional left-right political definitions. In terms of the right and left divide, the main pattern that draws attention is that, since the 1950 elections, the total right-wing votes have averaged between 60-65 percent, while the votes representing the secular electorate or left-wing ideology have averaged between 35-40 percent.
Today, however, these votes are 27-29 per cent for the CHP and leftist parties, and 10-13 per cent for the parties representing Kurdish politics.
This brings us to the analysis of the “three Turkeys,” which I have argued for for some time now: Conservatives, Secularists and Kurds.
If this triad and their weights have remained unchanged in the past seventy years—during which both the country and the world have undergone massive change—then we have a problem. The issue is that there are these “three Turkeys” existing alongside each other, and as long as the voters of the three Turkeys continue to think and behave from the same political position and identity, the main actor [Turkey] will not change.
At the beginning of the article, I said Erdoğan had won.
But this analysis shows that in reality, it is the opposition which has lost. The opposition, especially Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP, read the situation and the course of events from the limited perspective of the present. They leaned on discourses that were not based on a vision. As a result, they could not explain to the electorate why they had united around their candidate, and that change was possible without chaos.
As there was no trust in their narrative, there was no trust in the political actors. Neither actors nor voters were motivated to change the positions they have been stuck in for fifteen years.
This article was originally published by Gazete Oksijen. It has been translated and shortened by FTP.
The views and opinions expressed above are the author’s and do not reflect those of the Free Turkish Press.