Public disapproves of gov’t way of handling latest developments

Public disapproves of gov’t way of handling latest developments

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Photo: Ali Ünal)

July 13, 2012, Friday/ 17:34:00/ BETÜL AKKAYA DEMİRBAŞ

The public has expressed disapproval of the way the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government handled seven of 10 major issues that have dominated the national agenda lately -- including claims of match-rigging, the killing of 34 civilians in Uludere and tense relations with Syria -- according to the findings of the latest monthly opinion poll.

Conducted by the MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center, the poll suggests that roughly half of the participants have a negative perception of the government's position regarding these issues. According to the poll, 53.7 percent said they did not approve of the AK Party government's position on a planned ban on the practice of abortion in Turkey. Over 35 percent, however, did approve of the policy. The remaining 7.1 percent declined to comment. When asked if they approved of the government position regarding the Uludere tragedy, which occurred in late December, 49.3 percent said no, while 34.6 percent said yes.

The government denies state responsibility for the tragedy, which occurred after the military attacked civilian smugglers on the Turkish-Iraqi border near Uludere, killing 34. The government said the military had attacked the smugglers in the belief that they were terrorists.

Most respondents reported disliking the government’s stance on a debate over match-rigging claims. While 47.5 percent said the government had adopted the wrong stance against the claims, 37 percent responded to the contrary. The government drew widespread ire when it passed a law calling for lower jail sentences for match-fixers, despite an exercise of veto by the president. More than 90 defendants, including leading football officials and players, are being tried in a match-fixing case.

In a separate question, 42.5 percent of respondents said they dislike the government’s attitude in a debate surrounding National Intelligence Organization (MİT) officials. However, 32.6 percent stated they like the government’s position regarding MİT officials. In February, the government refused to allow prosecutors to interrogate four MİT officials, including the organization’s undersecretary, as part of an investigation into a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-linked terrorist organization. The government passed a law limiting prosecutors’ power to question MİT officials, causing a public outcry.

According to the poll, around 38 percent do not support AK Party policies regarding Syria, a previously close ally of Turkey, while 43 percent said they support those policies. The Turkish government says the Syrian administration should step down in the wake of a series of violent crackdowns on anti-government protesters.

Asked if they support an AK Party move that resulted in the closing down of the country’s specially authorized courts, which were dealing with coup and terrorism-related cases, 33.9 percent of respondents said they do not lend their support to the government, while 45.2 percent said the contrary.

In response to a question regarding whether the government’s position on the latest political developments had led to a decrease or increase in public support for the government, 34.8 percent said it had decreased their support for the government, while 32.9 percent said it had increased their support. More than 28 percent said the government’s position did not lead to a change in their level of support.

Respondents were divided over a government plan to ban abortion in Turkey. Leaving aside the issue of new legislation regarding abortion, 45.9 percent declared themselves opposed to abortion, while 44.8 percent said it should be freely available. The remaining 9.3 percent declined to comment. The AK Party government in June announced a plan to pass a law banning abortion. The proposal sparked anger from women’s rights groups, initiating a debate on the government’s right to intervene in people’s choices.

Asked whether Turkey should switch to a presidential system, 43.2 percent said yes and 37.7 percent said no. The adoption of a presidential system has been a constant subject of debate in Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who supports a presidential system, frequently brings the issue to the public’s attention, and many have speculated that he hopes to become Turkey’s first president under a new presidential system.

Respondents dislike CHP policies

The MetroPOLL survey also found that most respondents were unhappy with the way the Republican People’s Party (CHP) serves as an opposition party and the policies it pursues. An overwhelming 71.3 percent said the CHP does not represent left and social democrat parties in Turkey. Just over 18 percent replied to the contrary, and roughly 10 percent declined to comment.

The CHP is currently led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. It has suffered major defeats against the AK Party in the last few elections since 2002, when the AK Party was founded. Many say the CHP acts as a pro-state party instead of defending individual rights and freedoms.

Commenting on a question as to whether there is a “problem of leadership” within the CHP, 61.9 percent said yes, while only 29.4 percent said no. The remaining 8.8 percent said they did not know.

Kılıçdaroğlu was elected CHP leader after ex-leader Deniz Baykal resigned in 2010, when a video clip was posted online allegedly revealing his intimate relationship with a party deputy. More than 58 percent said Turkey needs a new left and social democrat party and leader, but 32.8 percent said Turkey does not need such a new party or leader. Suggesting names for a new left and social democrat leader, 32.3 percent of respondents said Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül. Around 2.5 percent said Baykal and 0.7 percent said Muharrem İnce, a CHP deputy.

The majority of respondents reported a belief that there is lack of strong opposition to the AK Party, as Turkey’s opposition parties -- the CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) -- are not strong enough to defeat the governing AK Party in elections. More than 56 percent said there is a lack of strong opposition, while 37.9 disagreed.

Asked if they approve of the way Kılıçdaroğlu serves as leader of the main opposition party, 67.1 percent said no. Only 27.2 percent said yes. The support for AK Party leader Erdoğan is stronger. More than 66 percent said they like the way Erdoğan serves as leader of Turkey’s ruling party. Slightly more than 29 percent said they dislike his leadership.

What if elections were held today?

Pollsters also questioned the respondents about their voting behavior. If parliamentary elections were held today, 46.5 percent of those polled said they would vote for the AK Party, a figure lower than in the June 2011 general elections, in which the ruling party won around 50 percent of the vote. This figure is likely to increase at the ballot box for the AK Party, through the split of the vote of those who are undecided, which the survey shows to be more than 8 percent.

The poll showed that the CHP would receive 21.9 percent of votes cast. The figure suggests that the main opposition party has been unable to maintain its rising popularity among voters since the election of Kılıçdaroğlu as the party leader. According to MetroPOLL, the MHP would receive 12.1 percent of votes cast, while the BDP would garner 4.9 percent.

Another question directed at respondents concerned their trust in the existing party leaders. More than 44 percent of respondents said they trusted the AK Party’s Erdoğan the most. Erdoğan was followed by the CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu, with 10.9 percent, and the MHP’s Devlet Bahçeli, with 4.3 percent. Forty-six percent of the respondents expressed their belief that Turkey is headed for a good future, while 33.3 percent said they felt the contrary. The poll was conducted from June 11-20 by telephone among a random national sampling of 5,122 adults residing in cities, towns and villages. The margin of error for the overall poll is 1.4 percentage points, and the confidence level is 95 percent.

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