What happened in the last elections?

The first thing to say about the election results is that the likely outcome was not reflected in the public opinion polls carried on until the week before the election. The high percentage of support given to the AK Party surprised even the leaders of the party.

It seems that the increasing political violence, the ambiguity in the management of the economy, the inability of opposition parties to generate confidence after missing the chance to form a coalition government after the June elections even though they had a parliamentary majority and their inability to agree on who to elect Parliament speaker following the November elections played a crucial role.

A strong sense of stability and harmony swayed back the votes that had left the AK Party in the June election, allowing it to form a new government without a partner. Sensing this need, the AK Party tapped the expectations of stability and continuity and won. What happened in the five months between the two elections that led to a major shift in electoral allegiance, allowing the AK Party to increase its share of the vote to 49.5 percent (November) from 40.9 percent (June)?

It is a well-known fact that the AK Party is the party with the biggest bloc of loyal voters among its peers. This leaves little room for “undecided” voters swaying from one party to another. Yet, voters who had little party allegiance changed position one week before the elections. This is when public opinion polls were terminated.

In June, 5 percent of voters decided what party they would vote for in the final week. This group increased to 9 percent in the November election. In fact, half of this group (4.5 percent) decided at the ballot box. Nine percent means 5 million voters. Of this, 5 percent decided to give their votes to the AK Party in the final week or at the last moment. The remaining 4.5 percent gave their votes to other parties. Forty-six percent of these “late deciders” are between the ages of 18-34 — the cohort whose party allegiance is weakest.

There has been a considerable change in the public perception of how the country is faring after the November election. While 25 percent of people thought Turkey is faring well in October, this percentage rose to 43 percent in November after the election. Those who believe that Turkey is not faring well fell from 63 percent to 41 percent, elevating the proportion of positive attitudes above the pessimists for the first time since April 2014.

This change may be attributed to the increasing optimism of the AK Party electorate following their party’s electoral victory. Sixty-four percent were optimistic about their future in October. This percentage rose to 85 percent in November after the electoral victory of their party. Considering that the AK Party electorate consists of half the voters, it is understandable how this shift in attitudes has occurred. At the other side of the spectrum, optimism among the voters of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are dismal; less than 10 percent each.

Expectations for the future have threaded a similar line. While optimism rose in general, AK Party supporters’ optimism rose from 66 percent to 88 percent in one month.

Nevertheless, half of the population has negative expectations about the future, a reality that harms the feeling of unity and trust among citizens. This bifurcation is also visible in the perception of living conditions. While 61 percent of AK Party supporters say their living conditions have improved, those who share the same opinion is only 3 percent among the opposition members. The difference in the levels of satisfaction may further separate the voters of the party in power and those who have voted against it.

The same difference in expectations concerning possible increases in income level, freedoms and security is quite high between supporters of the AK Party and the parties in opposition, raising question marks about national solidarity and acting in concert when faced with national challenges. Let us hope for the best.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN