Erdogan takes 'star appeal' into Turkish vote

Prime minister goes into Sunday's election with "political stardom" in his favour, according to analysis for Al Jazeera.

    More than 60 per cent of Turks express confidence in Erdogan's handling of the country's foreign affairs [Reuters]

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's incumbent prime minister, is widely recognised as the country's most competent political leader, with "political superstar" qualities, even among those who support opposition parties and do not necessarily trust him, according to analysis conducted for Al Jazeera.

    Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is expected to secure a third term of office in Sunday's parliamentary elections, on the back of a strong economy and Turkey's burgeoning reputation as an emerging world power.

    But research conducted by Vote Compass into how Turkish voters rate the abilities and trustworthiness of their political leaders suggests that Erdogan himself may be the party's most potent campaigning weapon.

    Asked to rank their preferred party's leaders on both integrity and competence on a scale of one to 10, AKP supporters gave Erdogan an average score of nine for integrity and 9.29 for competence.

    By contrast, his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), scored 8.23 for integrity and eight for competence when rated by his own supporters.


    But the real measure of Erdogan's political reputation was revealed when supporters of one party were asked to rate the leaders of other parties.

    Less than 2.5 per cent of AKP supporters rated Kilicdaroglu as a competent leader, compared with 5.5 per cent for Erdogan among CHP supporters, who gave the incumbent prime minister an eight or higher.

    This despite the fact that CHP supporters also rated Erdogan as highly untrustworthy, giving him an average score for reliability of 0.8.

    "Clearly the large majority of CHP voters do not trust the intentions of Erdogan, but some do admit he is a competent political leader," Vote Compass concludes.

    "This discrepancy between reliability and competence is not found among AKP voters when they evaluate Kilicdaroglu."

    'Political stardom'

    The trend can also be identified in the opinions of supporters of Turkey's third main party, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and among minor parties.

    MHP supporters gave Kilicdaroglu a much higher average score for integrity – 5.2 – than Erdogan, who scored just 1.7.

    But ranked on competence, the gap between the two was reduced, with Kilicdaroglu scoring 5.3 and Erdogan 3.1.

    About 13 per cent of MHP supporters gave Erdogan a score of seven or higher for competence.

    "Erdogan has political stardom," Vote Compass' Andre Krouwel told Al Jazeera. "You can see that in this data. His popularity goes far beyond his own supporters."

    Birol Baskan, a Turkey analyst based at Qatar's Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, said that Erdogan's reputation for competence dated back to his time as mayor of Istanbul during the 1990s, and had been enhanced by his time as prime minister.

    "Turkey witnessed improvement almost in every aspect from infrastructure to transportation, from economy to foreign policy. Rightly or wrongly, many associate these improvements with Erdogan's competence," Baskan told Al Jazeera.

    "Neither Kilicdaroglu nor [MHP leader] Devlet Bahceli has such an impressive record of skillful management in any public or private institution."

    In Istanbul, Nazif Bey, a tailor, told Al Jazeera's Ayse Alibeyoglu that he had a "soft spot" for Erdogan for providing jobs and opportunities for non-university graduates.

    "I will cast my vote for Erdogan because of how his leadership has provided stability for my business. I trust he knows what he is doing," he said.

    Dursun, a chef, said Turkey's economy had left Europe "in our dust".

    "Regardless of how people might personally feel about Erdogan, no one can deny that his policies and his plans to develop regions in Turkey overlooked in the past have made Turks richer in their pockets and spirits," he said.

    Fatma, an airport cleaner, said that her entire family would vote for the CHP. But she was the "black sheep of the family," she said.

    "I have chosen to vote for Erdogan. I send the money I earn in Istanbul back home to my family to support them.

    "I've been able to send lots of money back under Erdogan. I feel that under any other leader we would endanger our economy. I would hate to see it go back to the dark days."

    'Positive marks'

    Erdogan's popularity was also borne out on Wednesday by research conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, which found rising levels of satisfaction among Turks about the direction in which the country was moving.


    While Turks were evenly split, with 49 per cent expressing dissatisfaction and 48 per cent expressing satisfaction, the figures compared favourably for the ruling party with equivalent figures last year of 60 per cent and 38 per cent.

    More than 60 per cent of Turks also had confidence that Erdogan would do the right thing in world affairs, while Erdogan also enjoyed strong support in many Middle Eastern countries, the survey reported.

    "Under Erdogan's leadership, Turkey has played a more assertive role in international affairs, and most Turks give the prime minister positive marks on foreign policy," it said.

    "Erdogan is also popular in neighbouring Arab nations - most Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Palestinians express confidence in the Turkish leader."

    Sex tapes backlash

    Vote Compass' analysis also reveals falling levels of support for the leader of the MHP, Devlit Bahceli, in the weeks since a sex tapes scandal forced the resignation of 10 senior members of the party.

    Polls suggest the MHP is facing a possible backlash that could see its share of the vote fall below the 10 per cent threshold required to enter parliament.

    Bahceli rated 7.9 for trustworthiness among MHP supporters on May 22, the day that the party suffered a second round of resignations over the release of the internet sex tapes.

    By June 4 his rating among his own party followers was down to 6.8.

    Vote Compass said that trust for Bahceli among supporters of other parties, already very low, was also in decline, suggesting that the MHP may struggle to win the support of "battleground voters".

    "Trust in MHP leader Devlet Bahceli is declining among his core voters and his 'battleground' group of voters," said Vote Compass.

    "This means that it will be increasingly difficult for MHP to pass the electoral threshold of 10 per cent."

    Al Jazeera's Vote Compass application allows Turkish voters to plot their position within Turkey's political landscape and find the party that best matches their opinions.

    More than 175,000 Turkish voters have used the tool.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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