Tactical voting could help Turkish opposition

Analysis suggests main opposition supporters could vote for scandal-hit ultra-nationalists in bid to limit AKP majority.

    CHP supporters display a banner of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, but tactical voting could cost the party some votes [EPA]

    Some supporters of Turkey’s leftist opposition party are considering voting for a conservative ultra-nationalist party in the country’s forthcoming elections in an apparent effort to limit the size of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s majority, according to exclusive analysis by Vote Compass for Al Jazeera.

    Opinion polls suggest Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will comfortably secure a third term in June 12 parliamentary elections, but the number of seats it gains will determine whether it can follow through with ambitious plans to rewrite the country’s constitution.

    The AKP, which has Islamist roots, says it intends to introduce a constitution that will make Turkey more democratic and bring the country in line with European norms. But AKP critics fear the party will use constitutional change to reinforce its grip on power and to undermine Turkish secularism.

    A two-thirds majority – 367 seats – would allow Erdogan and his party to push constitutional change through parliament on its own, without the need to secure consensus with other parties.

    Analysts say the AKP could achieve that goal if the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) falls short of the 10 per cent share of the national vote necessary to enter parliament.

    Extra-marital affairs


    The MHP, which polled around 14 percent at the last election in 2007, is considered particularly vulnerable after a sex tapes scandal, which has already forced 10 senior figures to resign. Video footage purportedly showed MHP officials having sex in a house allegedly hired by the party for the purpose of extra-marital affairs.

    But Vote Compass analysis suggests many supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) – which is campaigning on a leftist platform – could switch their votes to the MHP, despite the parties’ ideological differences.

    Almost a third – 31 per cent - of MHP supporters are considering switching their vote to the CHP. But a sizeable 19 per cent of CHP supporters are contemplating shifting their allegiance to the MHP, according to the analysis, suggesting the parties are competing for the same votes.

    "As the tape scandal unfolds, we expect larger voter shifts between MHP and CHP. An increasing number of MHP sympathisers may be disappointed with their leaders' behaviour and defect to the CHP," wrote Vote Compass.

    "“At the same time, this triggers tactical voting behaviour among CHP sympathisers that want the MHP to reach the 10 per cent threshold to prevent AKP domination in the next parliament... This trend needs to be followed closely as the election date approaches."

    'Strong challenges'

    The CHP, traditionally the party of Turkey’s secularist establishment, has sought to reinvent itself under new leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu as a European-style social democratic party.

    But Vote Compass suggests the party faces "strong challenges", with many CHP sympathisers in Kurdish regions of the country considering throwing their support behind independent candidates representing the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
    Vote Compass’ analysis revealed strong party loyalty among AKP supporters, but, conversely, few supporters of other parties were considering giving their vote to the ruling party.

    Birol Baskan, a Turkey analyst at Qatar’s Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, said that the CHP and the MHP shared "one strong commonality - that is their determined opposition to the AKP’s democratisation programme".

    "“In this election, the voters are going to vote strategically more than they did in the past. MHP supporters should be now fearful that their party will not pass the 10 per cent electoral threshold.

    "“Some CHP supporters might be contemplating that by voting for the MHP they can help the MHP pass the threshold and enter into the parliament. In this way there will be three parties - the CHP, the MHP and the BDP - in the parliament. Together they can block the AKP's future attempts  to amend the constitution."

    Ali Carkoglu, Vote Compass' leading analyst in Turkey, said there was no "consensus" on issues of constitutional change.

    "The AKP seems eager to resolve both issues without necessarily building a consensus, and thus taking all constitutional changes as a package to a referendum," Carkoglu told Al Jazeera.

    "This means opening a new Pandora's box for Turkish politics. It will be deja vu all over again, with polarised debates about legitimacy."

    More than 100,000 people have used Vote Compass’ Turkish elections tool, which helps voters find the party that best matches their views, so far.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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