KONDA researcher Erman Bakırcı replied Bianet’s questions on what the surveys of the opinion poll company reveal for the coming May 14 elections. Tuğçe Yılmaz reports in Bianet on April 6, 2023.
« The Homeland Party (Memleket) which we found at very low rates two months ago is now seen at significant rates. The same is true for Muharrem İnce. »
« Muharrem İnce is filling a gap. The gap of the young voters which we have been pointing out since long. »
« The occupational group that Erdoğan and AKP are strong in is the housewives. »
« The places hit by the earthquake were places dominated by AKP or MHP anyhow. Therefore it will be AKP who wants to get the votes from this region the most. »
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the D’hondt system for bigger and smaller parties? Which risks are the political parties that wish to run under their own lists within an alliance taking? Are the votes of Muharrem İnce at significant levels?
« İnce is filling a gap »
Let me start with what everybody is curious about; have you observed any increase in Muharrem İnce’s votes?
KONDA researcher Dr. Erman Bakırcı: The Homeland Party (Memleket) which we found at very low rates two months ago is now seen at significant rates. The same is true for Muharrem İnce. People talk about the possibility that these votes will go down. Correct, this is a possibility. However, we have to observe his rise and fall well, because we would not have this on our agenda if we were making this interview two months ago.
Our findings then showed the Homeland Party was a party that we could not analyze, however, it increased its votes in two months. Therefore they may rise even further.
This is because Muharrem İnce is filling a gap.
The gap of the young voters. The gap young voters create which we have been pointing out for long and Mr. Bekir Ağırdır also (the former KONDA manager). One out of every 10 people who are eligible to vote in the elections is a new voter. We have more than 6 million voters who will be voting for the first time. People aged 18-22. Again one out of every 3 voters is aged between 18-32.
We were always saying this: Some change will happen if the youth goes to the polls. Now it seems that not all but most of them will go to the polls to vote for Muharrem İnce. Surprising? Not. This gap was there since two years ago and there has been very limited work done for this group. Especially the opposition should not blame Muharrem İnce but should ask itself why they have not been able to touch this portion of society.
Why do young people prefer Muharrem İnce?
It would be wrong to say that the voters aged between 18-22 have an ideological stance at this stage. This is a group that wants to vote for İnce because they like him, admire him, and see him as someone new and different. I do not think that reminding them some issues like what did İnce do, that he got lost on the election night will help. We suppose that everyone is following political developments every day and taking notes. This is not the case.
Of course, it is also difficult to preserve such a young group and one with weak ideological attachment, but again this does not mean that İnce cannot do this. We will observe and we will see.
So the stance of the youth does not have much to do with election attitudes?
Election attitude is a very complicated and multi-layer area. Where do the election attitudes feed from? First of all, it is the result of all the dynamics that we are born into, the environment that we grow up in, our family, and all our interactions.
And young people’s lives are more dynamic, active, and faster. Whoever touches them has more possibility to receive their votes. For example, people make fun of them using TikTok. Why should it be different to watch something on Instagram and to watch it on TikTok? We should not set up such hierarchies. If such big political parties were not able to see these dynamics, this is not young people’s fault.
Have you observed any changes after the February 6 earthquakes? Will there be any surprises in the earthquake regions?
The political geography of Turkey is extremely settled and steady. People have voted generally in the same pattern in the last three elections and the party they vote for has become a part of their identity. We could foresee further changes in voters’ preferences under the current economic conditions if this was not the case.
It is not that nothing has changed, but it is below the expectations or moderate. A large part of the earthquake regions was dominated by AKP and MHP anyhow. (…)
We have observed a decline in AKP votes during the earthquakes but the same increased again (…) thus we do not expect any critical changes in that region.
Is there any significant change in the votes of the other partners of the People’s Alliance?
No there isn’t. The margin of error in our field surveys is usually around 2 percent. Therefore the Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) or the New Welfare Party (YRP) were not measured in our surveys significantly enough. YRP appeared during the Covid-19 pandemic only because of its anti-vaccinationist attitude. But we do not have any data to foresee the tendencies of the YRP voters.
Is the same true about AKP voters?
Yes. AKP voters start to defend Erdoğan whenever he is criticized extensively. They say you have criticized, and it is now enough. We saw this during the earthquakes. This is because there is a very strong link between Erdoğan and his voters. They are with him when they see that he needs them. And Erdoğan consolidates his voters, again and again, he increases their motivation.
Otherwise, the AKP voters do not think that the economy is managed well either, but for the voters, Erdoğan is more important and they say again he will fix it.
Is there any group or political party that will play a critical role in this election other than the youth?
The political party is for sure the Homeland Party at the moment. And the group the housewives. The occupational group that Erdoğan and AKP are strongest in is the housewives. And the opposition was not able to really get in touch with this group. Of course the AKP votes among housewives fell down, but this is still the group that they are the strongest at.
What is this system everybody is now talking about and how does it work?
Before discussing the D’hondt method we should mention the two basic principles of election systems. Stability of government and just representation.
Article 67 of our Constitution also makes reference to these two principles.
D’Hondt system or method is a proportional representation method designed in 1878. It aims at the political parties being represented in ratios similar to the ratio of the votes they receive.
In Turkey, the D’hondt system has been used in all elections except for a few -like the 1965 elections- since 1961. It is also used in many countries such as Spain, and Japan. So the system is neither new, nor unique to us.
But of course, there is one thing that is unique to us that is Turkey is implementing the D’hondt system together with the election threshold. Even if the threshold is brought down to 7 percent from 10 percent it is still quite high. Therefore we have to first talk about the problems that the election threshold brings in relation to just representation.
Separate lists within alliances
What are the risks?
Before if there were two political parties in an alliance, their votes were added up and the distribution of MPs was calculated accordingly. Now if the parties in an alliance run under their own lists, we calculate as if there is no alliance. Together with the discussions about separate lists, the alliances become a little vague. Of course, this system is a great problem for the alliances including many political parties, and for the new parties.
It is an even greater problem for the new parties. We founded a political party, ‘we have our logo but will we run in the elections without our logo,’ they ask. We saw similar discussions in the Nation Alliance and the Labor and Freedom Alliance.
This is why we enter the election period but there is not much activity. The parties were not able to start the election campaigns strongly. And at a point where we are facing a great economic crisis and when more than 50 thousand of our people lost their lives in earthquakes.
Can it never be an advantage?
Normally it can. Let’s say we are two political parties and many of your voters do not like me at all. If we run with two separate lists, they will vote for you anyhow. However, if I also compete under your list, theoretically it is possible that we get more votes. It is not correct to say that the political parties will have fewer MPs elected if they compete under separate lists. One thing is true: If they receive more or less the same number of votes, it is highly possible that they will end up with fewer MPs.