On May 16th, the SETA Foundation at Washington DC hosted an event on “Turkey’s Early Elections,” focused on the first presidential and parliamentary elections under the new presidential system on June 24. In the presidential race, several political parties have nominated their own candidates, while in the parliamentary elections, several parties have formed alliances to gain the majority in the legislature. Panelists included Ihsan Aktas, President of GENAR Research and Polling; Nebi Mis, Director of Domestic Policy at the SETA Foundation in Turkey; and Murat Yesiltas, Director of Security Policy at the SETA Foundation in Turkey. Kilic Bugra Kanat, Research Director at the SETA Foundation at Washington DC, moderated the discussion.
Nebi Mis began the discussion outlining the framework and the development of the process that led to snap elections, as well as, what to expect for the upcoming election. He noted that while the elections were scheduled to be held in November 2019, the ruling alliance called for snap elections to be held June 24, 2018. He commented that the AK Party has won all elections by nearly double of the next closest party. He also mentioned that AK Party and MHP have aligned more closely since the July 15, 2015 failed coup attempt. He commented that the coup attempt and alliance influence the decision to call for snap elections.
Ihsan Aktas continued the discussion by talking about his company’s role in researching and producing polls. He argued that the role of his organization is to produce research and inform the public. He stated that it appears that there will be great diversity in parliament after these elections. He also mentioned that despite best polling efforts, people can change their decisions up to when they cast their vote. He also noted that as of right now it appears that the current president Erdogan would win and become the next president but it was more difficult to predict the parliamentary elections at this point since the parties have not announced their candidate lists yet. He argued that this will be a very tough election period given the party alliances and the transition to the presidential system.
Murat Yesiltas focused on the Kurdish vote and the weaknesses and failures of the Kurdish party HDP. He argued that the party failed to create a strong opposition coalition due to a lack of ideological leadership, lack of shared parties, and lack of ideological homogeneity. He also noted that HDP is still seen as a nationalistic Kurdish party and the party failed to present itself as an alternative political party with a broader appeal. He stated that people hold the HDP responsible for the failed peace process with the PKK. He ended his comments by arguing that security and regional developments will be significant factors for the direction of the Kurdish votes.