A recent study of the mood of voters

I think that the most interesting event of the week has been the publication of a study done by Ali carkoilu, a well-known political scientist from Koc University.

His research scrutinizes the attitudes of voters about the main problems of Turkey such as the state of the democracy, the economy, the presidential system and the Kurdish problem based on a survey carried out in April. It should be noted that as the voters have been asked to declare their political party preferences, we are able to observe how attitudes differ according to which party they support. As I cannot comment on all of these issues, let me first present the findings on the presidential system, which is actually the main and most critical debate I will then focus on the economy.

The voters were asked if the presidential system is a better form of governance in comparison with a parliamentary system. Forty-six percent of them answered “No.” Only 27 percent said “Yes.” The 27 percent remaining are either hesitant or have no idea.

My first remark is that the presidential system is not popular in Turkey. My second remark is that 43 percent of supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) agree that a presidential system is better for governance, as might be expected. However, 21 percent of them do not agree. Unfortunately, we do not know the reasons.

My third remark is about a paradoxical result. Only 38 percent of supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are against the presidential system, compared to 77 percent of Republican People’s Party (CHP) supporters and 63 percent of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporters. On the other hand, 31 percent of HDP supporters prefer the presidential system.

How might this difference be explained? Certainly we need another survey to have the right answers but I think the idea is that winning greater regional autonomy or federalism has a better chance with the presidential system than the parliamentary system. This would require a great deal of compromise between the HDP and the ruling party.

As for the state of the economy, the survey starts with an open question by asking to define the main problem. As this study is the fourth one, with the previous three conducted in 2002, 2007 and 2011, the years of the previous general elections, it is possible to observe changes in the attitudes of the voters. The highest ranked problem is that of unemployment and poverty, at 39 percent. Already in 2002 the same problem had been ranked first with 31 percent and this figure increased regularly in 2007 and 2011. As the unemployment rate has been many times over 10 percent with a noticeable increase in the recent past and with Turkey’s score of 49 percent in terms of Severe Material Deprivation, ranking it at the top in Europe, we may say that this result is very realistic.

The second ranked problem, at 13 percent, is the state of the economy, covering economic instability and the crisis. In 2002, at a time when the nightmare of the 2001 crisis was quite fresh in the collective memory, this figure had been close to 27 percent. This same figure dropped well below 10 percent in 2007 and 2011 thanks to a good and inclusive growth performance but has increased substantially since. The scores of other issues, like corruption, lack of democracy, terrorism and national security all shift between 5 to 9 percent. So, it might be concluded that the low speed of economic development is the main concern. This is not surprising in a country where the per capita income, after a striking rise between 2002 and 2012, stagnates at just over $10,000.

The study contains a graph presenting a rise in the number of voters who feel that the state of the economy is bad. This figure starts at 76 percent in 2002. Then it decreases to 31 percent in 2007 before jumping to 60 percent in 2009, the year of the economic crisis. Let me remind the reader that the AKP vote share in the local elections of March 2009 has been considerably decreased to 38 percent from the 46 percent obtained in the general election of July 2007. Along with the strong recovery in the 2010-2011 period, the number of voters who believe that the economy is not in good shape decreased to 24 percent. With low growth characterizing the last three years, this figure increased and in the recent survey it reached 48 percent. Obviously, these findings show that Turkish voters perceive quite well the economic conjecture and adjust their voting behavior accordingly.