Parties and political identities (1)

Identity is how a person perceives and expresses himself or herself both individually and in group affiliation. Put in other words, identity is the image of an individual in his or her eyes as well as in the eyes of others.

The individual expects congruency and consistency in his or her self-perception and the social perception of himself or herself. He or she can only then feel like a whole person, accepted and respected by “others.” I, we, you and they become a reality in this series of interactions of subjective and social perceptions.

The human individual defines himself or herself by fusing his or her subjective and social identities and internalizing them. He or she wants to be known and accepted the way he or she defines himself or herself. The roles that the individual undertakes are determined by the identities subjectively and socially shaped.

There is a wealth of identity spheres in a society: gender, professional, ethnic, religious, political and so on. The MetroPOLL Social Research Agency has built an identity map of political parties out of a public opinion poll it conducted last month.

According to the poll, 23.8 percent of voters in Turkey are Ataturkist/Kemalists. This is the biggest political identity group. The second biggest group is religious and secular nationalists with 18.9 percent, and the next largest identity group is the traditionalist/religious conservatives. Democrats/liberals add up to 12.3 percent, followed by social democrats/socialists at 8.9 percent. The Gray Wolves, who are the militant youth wing of the Turkish ethnic nationalists that are dissatisfied with the inertia of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) camp, constitute 3.6 percent of voters. Kurdish nationalists add up to 2.5 percent of the electorate. A total of 4.5 percent of voters define themselves differently to these identity categories, while an additional 6.9 percent either has no identity preference or an answer.

The poll reveals the stark truth that the only political party that resembles the national distribution of identity groups is the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP). The variety of its constituency makes it an all-Turkey party, unlike its rivals. This must be the secret of its electoral success: representing almost every political identity group to varying degrees.

Now let us compare the AKP with its closest competitor, the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

While the overall national political mosaic is better reflected by the AKP, the CHP constituency is heavily skewed towards the Ataturkist/Kemalist identity, which constitutes 55.2 percent of its support. This group is represented among the AKP constituency with 11.2 percent of the party’s support. While traditionalists/religious conservatives are 2 percent of the CHP, their percentage is 36.1 percent in the AKP. Among the total voters of Turkey, this group is 18.9 percent.

It is interesting to note that the group of people who label themselves as democratic/liberal is somewhat bigger among the AKP constituency (13.3 percent) as opposed to the CHP (11.5 percent).

In contrast, those who call themselves social democrat/socialist constitute 16.9 percent of CHP voters while their percentage is 4.4 in the AKP and 8.9 in the national political spectrum.

Support for the Gray Wolves is 0.4 percent in the CHP while it is 4.5 percent in the AKP and 3.6 percent among voters nationwide. Kurdish nationalists, who make up 2.5 percent of total voters, are non-existent among CHP supporters, while they are at 1.6 percent in the AKP.

We will explore the distribution of political identities in the support base of the MHP and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) on Sunday.