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June 15, 2011, Wednesday

What did the people say?

The June 12 elections look set to leave deep traces behind in our political history. For their own sakes, every party should try to correctly interpret the message that has been given by voters. Excuses being made about the stupidity of the nation or about people’s votes being bought don’t strike one as very believable. Also, those who simply close their eyes to what is happening aren’t going to benefit from anything.

The victors of the elections need to analyze the situation just as seriously as the defeated. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) now possesses a level of success that very few other parties have enjoyed. It got to where it is today by learning from its mistakes made in the days when they were members of the National View movement. What’s more, most AK Party leaders have not tried to deny their own mistakes. They are aware that the mainstream voters, who are the ones that decide the results, are not part of some sort of biased partisanship. They recognize the reasons that cause parties to lose votes and why some once legendary parties have now fallen so dramatically. What the AK Party has succeeded in doing is developing strong lines of communication with the voters of Turkey. They found and capitalized on as much sociological bedrock as a party of the people could and established a sense of belonging between this bedrock and the party. What the opposition needs to do at this point is leave out the ridiculous explanations that range from their victimization to votes being bought, and instead engage in making some serious analysis. As for the AK Party, it must not forget that it has been put in the driving seat by 50 percent of the population to write a new civilian constitution. For the party to obtain this amount of the vote, even though its third term in power was considered to be certain, was not an easy thing and it looks as though it was just the motivating force the party needed. It is of course inevitable that the ruling party will come up against factions they cannot please and factions who try to wear them out. It is very important that while holding onto their old voters, the AK Party also gained another 5 million in support. The voters who said they were only partially pleased with the party could have well decided to forgo the trip to the ballot box, hoping to send a message to the AK Party. The motivation to draft a new constitution as well as the democratization process the country is undergoing help make up for the likely damage the party has attained as a result of being in power for so long. By running suspects from the coup cases as deputy candidates, the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) basically served the 50 percent vote on a silver platter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. For the conservative factions of Turkey, who have suffered a lot from the coups, the AK Party has, in a sense, become the only direction to take. The 9 percent of the vote obtained by the Democrat Party (DP) and the Young Party (GP) in the previous elections was up for the taking in these elections. The MHP, however, which could have received some of these votes, came away empty-handed. In the same way, both the Felicity Party (SP) and the Voice of the People Party (HAS Party), which were expected to take some of the votes from the AK Party bedrock, were also limited to a very small margin of votes. The primary reason for these developments is the worry that the general struggle for democratization might be derailed. The MHP, when it decided to place Engin Alan at the top of its deputy list, had already pulled out of the race. As for the SP, it gives off mixed messages regarding the Ergenekon case. And the HAS Party was simply never able to consolidate the image of a party that was up to facing the struggles ahead of it.

The fact that no serious alternative has come about for the AK Party is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It means that while the AK Party wins elections easily, it misses out on the momentum which might otherwise be provided by opposition breathing down its neck. The CHP, which was expected to be strong opposition to the AK Party, was not able to make its efforts of trying to break down ideological fronts very convincing. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu needs to understand that all of the answers do not just lie in the idea of family insurance. Another factor to note is that the HAS Party, which does have the potential to become an AK Party competitor, was caught unprepared for these elections. If it had been me who had to make decisions for the HAS Party, I would have passed on these elections, since it is hard to get over the trauma of being seriously defeated. Also, the HAS Party should have clarified their bedrock of voters more clearly. They could have taken more votes away from the AK Party not by insulting the AK Party, but by explaining to voters why they were better. In the end, if you don’t take away votes from the larger faction at hand, it is simply not possible to exist on the political stage.

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