‘Yes,’ ‘No’ in dead heat ahead of Turkish referendum

by editor | 2nd September 2010 7:52 am

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‘Yes,’ ‘No’ in dead heat ahead of Turkish referendum

  DHA photos
DHA photos

?ZG? GÜNGÖR ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

The fight between the “yes” and “no” camps in Turkey’s constitutional referendum looks set to go down to the wire, with the deciding factor likely to be which leader makes the bigger gaffe, according to two heads of survey companies.
“What will be decisive in the referendum will not be the campaigns but the possible gaffes and mistakes by the political party leaders,” Adil Gür, head of polling company A&G, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday.

The political parties have intensified their election campaigns and adopted a much harsher tone toward each other while giving their messages to their voters ahead of the Sept. 12 referendum, during which Turkish citizens will vote on the government’s constitutional reforms.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, leader Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has primarily based his referendum rhetoric on the settling of accounts with the perpetrators of the 1980 military coup, encouraging Turks to vote “yes” so that the coup plotters can be tried.
In an effort to steal the Kurdish and conservative votes, the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu, on the other hand, revisited earlier proposals about creating a social consensus on a possible general amnesty for those accused of terrorism-related offenses with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the headscarf problem.
The line, however, is a mistake in terms of public perception, according to Gür. “It is Erdo?an who is carrying out the most successful referendum campaign thanks to the power of media and mass communication at his hand. The society, however, is so polarized that it is not affected by these campaigns [despite] the billboards and posters,” he said.
“K?l?çdaro?lu’s discourses on the general amnesty and the headscarf as the chief of a secular party along with Erdo?an’s much-criticized remarks that ‘those who fail to choose sides today will be set aside tomorrow,’ indicate a gaffe in terms of voter perception,” Gür said.
For Gür, Erdo?an’s rhetoric on “settling accounts with 1980 coup via ‘yes’ votes” is not the correct line, Gür said, citing poll results that show that the number of people who suffered under the 1980 coup yet still said the military intervention was necessary at the time was higher than those who condemn the takeover.
Echoing Gür’s remarks, Professor Özer Sencar, head of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP-affiliated MetroPOLL Research Company, said the possible gaffes would likely affect the “yes” votes in the referendum.
“Two factors will affect the referendum. One is a possible gaffe or mistake to be made by Erdo?an during his speeches, and another is the stance of Kurdish voters,” he told the Daily News.
Recent opinion polls

A&G conducted the recent poll among 2,405 people and revealed that 44 percent of those surveyed were planning to say “no” while 45.2 percent would say “yes.” Some 10.8 percent, meanwhile, are still undecided.
Some 58.8 percent of those undecided were women, according to the A&G survey.
Thus, the political party that will win over the most undecided voters – especially women and youth, who are the most ill-informed about the particulars of the charter – will win the race, Gür said.
Meanwhile, 28.4 percent of the population will likely vote on the proposals without being familiar with them, Gür said, adding that these people will likely vote along party lines since many tend to vote ideologically.
MetroPOLL, on the other hand, held two surveys in August, one during the Supreme Military Council, or YA?, meeting in which the government clashed with the military about appointments, and one after the meeting.
The first half of its poll was conducted with 677 people while the second half was conducted with 839 people; both came out strongly in favor of the “yes” side, according to Sencar.
For Sencar, what is interesting is that the 13.8 percent of undecided votes in the first poll decreased to 7 percent after the government’s clash with military in YA?, with almost half of the undecided votes going to the “yes” side.
“The crisis with the military usually serves to benefit the AKP and Erdo?an utilizes this situation very well. The public displays a silent reaction once the military intervenes in the incidents,” Sencar said, implying that the government’s relations with the military will also affect the AKP’s votes in referendum.
Regardless of what polls currently indicate, both believe that the margin between “yes” and “no” votes is likely to be close in the referendum.
“I think the AKP will win the race with a very small difference,” Sencar said.
Kurdish votes crucial
Both Gür and Sencar agree that Kurdish votes will also affect the fate of the referendum, saying the voters of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, in the Southeast may not abide by the party’s boycott decision, which would likely increase the number of “yes” votes.
“Most of the Kurdish votes already go to the AKP. The BDP’s stance will rather affect the referendum results. I think the voters in the Southeast will go to the polls despite the boycott decision and say ‘yes,’ which will strengthen the AKP’s hand,” Gür said.
How closely the BDP’s boycott call is heeded will be crucial for the “yes” vote, Sencar said.
“Intellectual Kurdish people are likely to vote in the referendum despite the boycott and say ‘no.’ But if the ordinary Kurdish origin public in the Southeast go to polls, they will probably say ‘yes,” Sencar said


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