Party preferences: 21 percent of the voters have switched the party they voted for in the last elections because its leader is not capable enough. Those who switched parties are highest for Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Republican People’s Party (CHP) voters; 28 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
If there were elections today, 71 percent of the voters said they would stick with their old party, while 17 percent would vote for other parties. Considering the number of the “undecided,” this ratio climbs up to roughly 25 percent; 12 percent of the voters have stated that they either did not like the party or its leader they voted for in the last elections or did not find it meaningful to vote. When this group is added on to the 20-25 percent of the voters who are ready to switch allegiance to a particular party, we may reach a rough estimate of voter alienation.
The CHP dilemma: Does the CHP represent the left and social democrats?
The CHP does not represent the left or the social democrats for 65 percent of all voters and 44 percent of CHP voters. In general, 55 percent of all voters do not believe that the CHP represents the traditional values and principles it used to defend. There is also a leadership problem in the CHP: 63 percent of all voters and 46 percent of CHP voters believe that this party suffers from a leadership deficit; 64 percent of all voters and 42 percent of CHP voters feel that the CHP needs a new leader, with 63 percent of all voters and 44 percent of CHP voters believing that the leadership problem had not been solved by the last CHP congress in late 2011.
Need for a new party: As the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government takes hold, the need for constructive and vibrant opposition for the sake of responsive government that is respectful of the rule of law gains more importance; the need for a new party seems to be surfacing among the electorate, with 54 percent of all voters and 42 percent of CHP voters indicating a new party should replace the CHP but possess its traditional values and principles. And what would those principles and values be? Those who advocate for a new party -- 29 percent -- hope this party will be more democratic than the present CHP, and 28 percent indicate it ought to be more respectful of the traditional values of the people (alluding to the elitist position of the old CHP); however, 17 percent think the new party should be more nationalist and Atatürkist. Only 4 percent of those who want a new party want it to be more leftist.
In addition, 58 percent of all respondents believe there is a vacuum when it comes to a functional opposition to the AK Party. It is important to note that the majority of opposition party supporters think along the same line: 64 percent of the CHP, 70 percent of the MHP and 77 percent of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) complain about the lack of effective opposition (opposition void). Approximately 54 percent of all voters expressed the need for a strong opposition party to check the incumbent AK Party. These figures and trends attest to the democratic reflex of Turkish voters as well as the existing political reality of a skewed political system in favor of the AK Party government. People feel that the AK Party has become a hegemonic party and want to make sure that this is checked within the limits of a democratic opposition.
The Kurdish problem: A lingering problem that has not been solved yet through political means is the Kurdish issue. An important part of the process is to find the right party to negotiate a lasting solution. When asked which party should negotiate with the government, 34 percent of the respondents said the Kurdish people, while 9.3 percent pointed to the BDP and 3 percent to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Those who have no opinion or did not want to answer were at 40 percent.
These findings attest to the fact that people are as confused or undecided as politicians when it comes to formulating a solution to this age-old problem in Turkey. However, the Kurdish people, who are increasingly perceived as the victim of the problem, are seen as the right party to negotiate a settlement -- an indication of the political awakening of the body politic.
In regards to the question “Can the Kurdish problem be solved without an agreement with the PKK? (Author’s note: A question that could not be asked a few years ago.), for 36 percent of the people, the answer is that it is impossible. But 49 percent believe that the Kurdish problem may be solved through a direct settlement between the government and the Kurdish people.