Why do the Turks vote for Erdogan?

Why do the Turks vote for Erdogan?

Ankara, June 4 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

Why has the AKP, for the last 13 years, been winning all elections with landslide victories?

What do the secret polls reveal for the coming election?

Is Turkey moving away from democracy?

The “second half” of Erdogan’s governance

By Manolis Kostidis

“There was a time when we could not even pass in front of the doors of private hospitals. We feared the exorbitant costs. When in 2011 I had a hard attack, my children took me to a private hospital which was near to where we lived, otherwise I would have died, and they did not ask for a single lira. Erdogan for years has imposed on private hospitals to accept emergency incidents for free. This fact saved my life, otherwise I would have died. How can I be ungrateful and not vote for him”.

This conversation we had with an acquaintance of ours in Turkey got us thinking to try to explain the AKP and Erdogan phenomenon, which has created a solid voter base (minimum 40%) that do not change for anything their preference in any election. Despite accusations of corruption, for incorrect foreign policy, for authoritarianism, Turkish citizens, with slight alterations in their rates, continue to vote for Erdogan.

What do the secret polls reveal

On June 7 election, 53.7 million Turkish voters will decide their future by casting their vote in the polling centers that have been set up all over Turkey, nominating the party that will govern them for the next five years.

All polls agree to the lead of the AKP, which with the contribution of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has become a political phenomenon in Turkey. It rules for 13 years now without having lost any election. And according to the most pessimistic forecasts of the AKP, the ruling party will maintain a difference of at least 12 to 14 percentile points from the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The latest secret polls of two major TV networks provide that the AKP will get 42-43.5% of the vote, the CHP 27-28.5%, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) 17 to 18%, while the pro-Kurdish HDP exceed the electoral threshold (10%) with 10.5 -11%.

If these polls are confirmed, the AKP with Ahmet Davutoglu as prime minister will win at least 280 seats (perhaps as many as 300) of the 550 seats and will continue to govern the country until 2020. But the goal of changing the Constitution to grand more power to the president of the country will be put on hold.

The second, but perhaps the biggest winner of the election will be the HDP, since it will be the first time the Kurds will elect MPs throughout Turkey and will double the number of their deputies.

The CHP and the MHP will probably have to change leadership, given that for one more time they failed to overthrow a government that has been in power for 13 years.

Political analysts do not however rule out future convergence of the AKP with the HDP in the issue of changing the Constitution in exchange for more rights to the Kurds and the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The President of the HDP has clearly stated that “we will not allow Erdogan to become president”, but Turkish analysts argue that he who has the final say among the Kurds is Ocalan.

Despite opposition allegations of corruption, authoritarianism for the Erdogan government for undemocratic methods regardless of the final result the Turks give a comfortable lead in the AKP and it shows that opposition to Turkey (except HDP) has been unable to raise rates.

Why do the Turks vote for the AKP and the State of Erdogan “phenomenon”

In the period 2002-2015 the per capita gross national income of Turks tripled, reaching from USD 3200 the USD 10,000. The rapid economic growth has raised the standard of living of the Turks.

With the prevalence of the AKP government against the Turkish “pashas”, for the first time in Turkey’s history spending on health and education surpassed the defence spending. Also impressive is the improvement of Turkey’s fiscal situation, with the debt dropping from 94% of the GDP to 39%.

475,000 families (about 2 million Turks) acquired apartment, with installments starting at 40 euros, through the TOKI system. This system provides for the allocation of land by the State to manufacturers who build large condominiums and sell them at low prices to Turkish citizens.

At the same time, the AKP imposed on all private hospitals in Turkey the compulsory treatment of emergency incidents (such as heart attacks, stroke, etc.) free of charge even if they do not have private insurance. At first private hospitals had refused the law required from them to act as such. Later though, the government sent tax inspectors to some of them and as a result they all accepted it. Currently payments are made according to state prices.

In addition to the above, the distribution of free books to students, the cancelation of fees at universities (once all Turkish citizens had to pay, even at a low price), the distribution of tablets to all pupils, have created a solid base of voters who say they do not want a change of government.

The decriminalization of headscarves at universities, the teaching of the Arabic language in schools, the Islamic-friendly rhetoric and the Ottoman dreams the AKP has been projecting, with Erdogan at the center of it all, satisfy a large portion of Turkish society, the majority of which is conservative and has been reacting to the pressures from the military to their lifestyle.

Corruption and overt spending cause skepticism

The opponents of Erdogan argue that the country is moving away from democracy, due to the authoritarian style of governance of the Turkish president. while at the same time they stress that the issue of corruption and bribery scandal of government ministers has caused great mistrust among the people. The AKP declined to send to the special court, four ministers that were accused of having received bribes. In the home of the Governor of the State Bank were found 4.5 million dollars in shoe boxes. Similarly, at the home of the son of Interior Minister Muammer Güler were found thousands of dollars in boxes, while another minister Egemen Bağış, was allegedly receiving kickbacks in chocolate boxes. Many AKP members have stressed that it was wrong not to refer them to the Special Court.

The illegal wiretappings that showed Erdogan instructing his son to remove millions of dollars from his home were among the issues that caused concerns.

Another issue that raises questions is the function of Justice. Four years ago, hundreds of army officers (including the former Chief of the General Staff) and government officials were put to prison on charges of being involved in Ergenekon and the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) coup, which according to the indictment were ultimately aimed to overthrow Erdogan. A few months ago they were all acquitted and released from prison!

Now behind bars are put members of the Hizmet Movement, among them journalists, judges and police officers of the former ally of Erdogan, the Imam Fethullah Gülen, on charges of creating a parallel State in the Judiciary and the Police, with the ultimate goal to overthrow the Turkish government.

This 180-degree turn of Justice makes people worried. The Turkish government says that it “fell victim to Gulen” and now says that it is trying to correct past mistakes. But in Turkey there is the fear of the government putting reins on Justice.

“You build USD 500 million worth palaces, with golden toilets” was the accusation of the leader of the main opposition Kemal Kilicdaroglu to Erdogan, referring to the new presidential palace Ak Saray that was built by the Turkish President. “Has Erdogan, who now lives in a palace forgotten the poor people?”, wonders the political analyst Nazli Ilicak.

What does Davutoglu mean when he speaks of a “second half”?

In his campaign speeches, Davutoglu says that “after the election starts the second half”. The AKP states that what will start is the implementation of the government’s goal to make Turkey one of the major world economies by 2023. Opposition parties say that what will start will be “the second half” of the attempts to convert the cosmic-elitist “Kemalist” State into a pro-Islamic, neo-Ottoman “Erdoganic” State. “If in June 7 the AKP manages to become government the old regime of Turkey will be buried in history”, says the columnist Rasim Ozan Kütahyalı of the pro-government newspaper Sabah.