ELECTIONS IN TURKEY
VOTERS’ PERCEPTION & TENDENCY ON THREE POPULAR QUESTIONS
“Why does AKP get all those votes despite corruption claims?”
In elections, the decision-making of the individuals follows the concrete effect on their lives and they cast their votes in elections in this manner. When we reduce this general truth to “corruption” phenomenon, we realize that the votes of the electorate is affected only when its own economic interest are at risk, not because it is considered as bad behavior. Simply, if someone tells you “This man is a thief and he may be stealing money from the wallet”, the first thing you do is to check your wallet. If your money is all there, you don’t care if the man is a thief.
In this case, when the supporters of the opposition ask “Why the hell are you still voting for them?”, the question suffers a loss of meaning in in terms of the political perception. The large majority of the people voicing this thought is already people that would not be voting for AKP. Therefore, the corruption didn’t even change their votes, only enhanced their argument -if they can ever put it in use.
Another important factor here is the “Rouba Mas Faz” syndrome, namely “they’re stealing, yes, but they work.” Unlike the common perception, this syndrome is not limited to Turkey but also one of the key issues that affects voter trends in Europe, America and Latin America. Even in Japan, where “honesty” is one of the most critical factors, the number of parliamentarians involved in corruption allegations is as high as 62%. Another example in Brazil: in 2003 the votes of municipalities that officially recognized corruption show only a 7% decline, while votes stayed unchanged for those that did not accept the allegations.
The cause of the syndrome is that the main criteria of the voter trend is the direct economic interest and concrete income/outcome.
As for Turkey, all national and international financial analyst have a negative opinion on the country’s economic policy. These are supported by data, such as increase in interest rates, the current account deficit , the loss of value of Turkish Lira against Dollar and Euro, exclusion of Turkey in US-EU trade agreement, consideration of Turkey as risky in international markets. Although the numbers are worrisome and analysts explain that there will be serious economic fracture within 1 year, the effects have not spread to the base to affect people, for example, current changes in exchange rates has not yet reflected on basic consumer products, such as gas and electricity.
Unfortunately, CHP (Main opposition/social democrat party) and other opposition parties failed in establishing this simple analysis and did/could not present the “corruption” arguments combined with the economic conjuncture in a severe communication error. Instead of long-term use of the “corruption” argument, they consumed it on the local elections. This strategic error was so severe, that most CHP propaganda was centered around ”corruption” arguments rather than promotion of their own projects (Most voters went to the polls without knowledge of the accomplishments or political agenda of CHP candidates.) While AKP ad campaigns described all the accomplished projects in the provinces, we saw a bunch of protest symbols or cute candidates singing in CHP ads. Thus, in Turkey where no political subject is to be trusted, the AKP made a difference for some by using the image, “the lesser evil” and “at least hard working”.
Consequently, also supported local election results, the abstract term, “corruption”, is a worthless concept in the minds of the voters. Therefore, the CHP strategy, if there is one, has lost.
However it is still not too late. Considering the course of economic management, it is crucial to keep using “corruption” allegations in the rhetoric for the general elections and extending it to other factors, like the reflection of exchange rates on voters. If they force media to talk about “corruption” while the economic interest of the people is directly affected by it, AKP will be held responsible and their approval will decrease inevitably.
” What about AKP, who is responsible for the deaths of Berkin Elvan and many others, getting all these votes? How unconscionable..”
This question is impossible to answer in this way, because the way is posed is defective. The addressee of this question will not say “Yes, AKP is responsible for the deaths but I voted for them because…” This is not how they think. So the question needs to be revised by establishing empathy.
The right question should be “Why did AKP get the votes after the deaths of Berkin Elvan and others?” The general voter would respond -excluding some that actually directly benefitted from AKP win- “Because “some people” put them forward and got them killed while AKP was trying to protect the youth.” Good majority with this kind of response will be the people who supported the protests on their balconies with pots and pans, without actually coming down to on the streets. “I have supported them at the beginning but there were too many provocateurs. They deviated form the original purpose.” Another example is Operation “Return to Life” in December 19, 2000, that killed 32 people and injured hundreds of people. Many still continue to believe that people were resurrected after the operation.
There is no difference between the three perceptions. So what gives?
As you can predict, the main reason is “perception management”. When a considerable amount of propaganda is in rulers, the set of information that forms YOUR opinion can be filled with data that of THEIR choice. They can physically control the perception by intimidating the media with prohibitions and penalties, by expulsion of dissident writers from the mainstream media, by interventions to those that broadcast via direct phone calls, by banning social media like Youtube and Twitter. If your perception is manipulated like this, your consciousness directs you to vote for AKP. It even goes beyond the polls and marginalizes you enough to boo the mother who just lost her son or to take to the streets with machetes. This marginalization, as part of the game of the powers to be, brings about dedication and ossification as part of polarization, such that you become insensitive to the leaked tapes, you accept the arguments of the rule without questioning or to tolerate them even if you were questioning. Wouldn’t you forgive your father?
Contrary to popular belief, the AKP voters did not “sell” their vote “treasonously” but with a peace of their mind and fulfillment of their moral responsibilities.
Therefore, the target should not be the voters but the management who formed the perception management. Movement in the coming period must focus on destructing this perception management and on extending the set of information on which the voters base their decision.
“The AK Party voters are ignorant, stupid, traitors.”
Aside from this sentence not being ethical, when you say it you contribute more to AKP than their own voters. Political parties begin to decline after they establish and advance. Their ruling institutions wear out. To minimize this, AKP started pursuing a polarization strategy of the nation as “us” and “them”. This is indicated by a sudden aggression in Erdogan’s tone, by him using this rhetoric without distinction of individuals, organizations or parties and by the emerging conspiracy theories without proof that almost came alive as “external forces” from Orwell ‘s 1984. In the early periods of AKP -where they received less votes- we witnessed national addresses with that were hopeful, inclusive and still partially logical. Yet Erdogan’s speech yesterday was full of hostility, threats and aggression proved once more where the party feeds.
At this point, for AKP to lose, you need to lower AKP votes. So what is the probability that that someone you call “ignorant, stupid, traitor” will listen to you and agree with you? Of course, zero. When you say this, you not only pave the way for polarization, but also lose the other pole that has started the ossification. And then you are bound to lose against the numerous votes of the other pole. Over the years, you wait for the self-destruction of the political structure that you oppose and you become passive.
For those who say “Were Gezi protests not enough for them to see?” I guess it will suffice to say that De Gaulle won the first elections after May 1968 events in France, compared to which Gezi can be considered a baby event.
In short, this discourse is only an easy way to satisfy the egoistic feelings but not practically useful. However there is a long, difficult and beautiful way: through institutions like NGOs and political parties, or through individual efforts working in different layers, serving a concrete goal to warn and change the party you feel close to.
A small example to show the gravity of the situation: In 2013, the members of the parties: AKP: 7.55 million CHP: 900,000 MHP: 360,000 BDP : 44,000
What I’m saying is, if there is an element of “stupidity” that is us, the very “sharp” opponents that choose the easy way out to pursue our well justified case.