Poll: New CHP carries ‘warning message’ for AK Party

Poll: New CHP carries ‘warning message’ for AK Party

Newly elected Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum yesterday to meet with supporters of his party.

May 31, 2010, Monday/ 17:26:00/ BETÜL AKKAYA DEMİRBAŞ
A recent opinion poll has shown that the newly elected leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is likely to boost public support for his party, an indicator of the emergence of a viable political alternative for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's CHP would garner 30.1 percent of the national vote if parliamentary elections were held today, according to a survey conducted by the MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center. Kılıçdaroğlu was voted in as the new CHP head on May 22 after the party's long-time leader, Deniz Baykal, resigned from his position when a video clip showing an alleged affair between him and a party deputy emerged.

The same survey showed that the AK Party would receive 37.3 percent of the vote in the general elections. The increase in the CHP votes is directly linked to the election of a new leader after a years-long Baykal hegemony. The poll showed the party is now perceived as an “emergency exit” for voters who are dissatisfied with AK Party policies. What will clarify the future of the growing public support for the main opposition are the policies to be pursued by the new Kılıçdaroğlu administration in the settlement of the country's chronic problems.

The MetroPOLL survey suggests that the CHP would be likely to garner 30.1 pct of the vote if elections were held today. The figure points to a more than 9 percent increase in public support for the main opposition party

An overwhelming 68.9 percent of respondents said they thought the CHP would increase its national vote under the new leader. Observers say the figure should be taken seriously by the AK Party, which has enjoyed its solid position as the most popular in Turkey for the past several years. Respondents are currently pleased at the removal of the Baykal domination over the CHP, according to the survey.

More than 56 percent believe Kılıçdaroğlu will serve as a more successful opposition leader than his predecessor. Around 35 percent, however, think the new CHP leader will fail to do so.

Asked what they thought of the elimination of Baykal supporters from the CHP administration by Kılıçdaroğlu, 63.6 percent said they were pleased with the move. Only 27 percent expressed dissatisfaction. With the election of Kılıçdaroğlu as the new CHP head, several former party members and important figures on the left who are close supporters of Baykal were left out of the CHP administration.

Nearly 54 percent believe Kılıçdaroğlu can change the CHP, which has been the focus of harsh criticism for being the “party of the state” and “being distant from the realities of the public.” Slightly less than 38 percent, however, believe no such change will occur within the main opposition under the leadership of Kılıçdaroğlu. Another 54 percent said Kılıçdaroğlu will manage to unite Turkish left while 36.2 percent disagreed.

In response to a question over whether Baykal will return one day to CHP leadership, an overwhelming majority said “no.” Only 25 percent said such a possibility exists. Shortly after the long-time CHP leader stepped down, rumors emerged that he would return to his position as soon as the nation forgets about the video scandal.

Putting aside any return to the party’s top post, 69.5 percent said Baykal should immediately quit politics. The experienced politician continues to serve as a CHP deputy from Antalya. Nearly 26 percent, however, said they thought Baykal should continue his political career.

No hope for settlement of Turkey’s problems

The Kılıçdaroğlu wind may, however, be short-lived, as the poll found that people perceive that Kılıçdaroğlu has no vision or plan to settle Turkey’s chronic problems such as the Kurdish question, the headscarf issue or unemployment.

According to Özer Sencar and Sıtkı Yıldız, who conducted the survey, the increasing public support for the main opposition party will fall into decline once the CHP is clear about its new administration. “Swift changes continue within the CHP. The findings of the survey will change for certain once Kılıçdaroğlu is clear about the new party administration. Polling companies will need to evaluate the perceptions of the public [of the new CHP] for more permanent findings,” read the survey.

In his speech after his election as the new CHP leader, Kılıçdaroğlu put forward almost no vision of a long-lasting change for the party. Just like his predecessor, Baykal, he voiced support for defendants in the trial into Ergenekon -- a clandestine organization whose suspected members are charged with attempting to overthrow the government -- saying his party planned to abolish specially authorized courts when it comes to power. He also opposed the government’s judicial reform package. The only promise Kılıçdaroğlu made was to lower Turkey’s 10 percent election barrier for parliamentary representation.

The poll shows that respondents were, however, not hopeful that the new CHP leader could settle Turkey’s decades-old problems. In response to a question about a possible solution of the Kurdish question by Kılıçdaroğlu, 61.7 percent said they thought he would fail to solve the question. Though Kılıçdaroğlu comes from an originally Kurdish family, he has not spent much time adapting the CHP’s vision on the Kurdish question. He believes the question could be solved by providing more prosperity to Turkey’s Kurds instead of giving them broader political and social rights.

Similarly, 62.8 percent said Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP would fail to find a solution to the headscarf problem. Turkey’s covered women are not allowed to enter the “public sphere” with their scarves on. The public sphere refers to military facilities, state buildings and universities. Another 62.8 percent said the new CHP would not be able to settle the problem of unemployment in the country, either. However, Kılıçdaroğlu focused on the unemployed population in the country in his first speech, accusing the AK Party government of leaving people -- particularly young people -- jobless. Respondents were also asked whether Turkey needed another leftist party. While 62.7 percent said there was no such need in Turkey, 30.8 said a new leftist party was needed in the country. More than 65 percent said they would not vote for Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP. Only 22.9 percent said they would vote for the new CHP.

The survey also questioned respondents about an approaching referendum on the government’s constitutional amendment package, slated for September. More than 44 percent said they will vote in favor of the package while 37.4 percent said they will vote against it. The poll was conducted from May 27-28 by telephone among a random national sampling of 1,586 adults residing in cities, towns and villages. The margin of error for the overall poll was 2.7 percentage points, with a confidence level of 95.

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