Poll: New CHP unable to come to power, solve Kurdish question

BETÜL AKKAYA DEM?RBA?
?STANBUL

A recent change in the administration of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) has boosted hopes for a stronger opposition as well as concerted efforts for broader freedoms and improved democracy, but there is still little hope of the main opposition becoming the ruling party and solving the country’s chronic problems, according to the latest results of a monthly opinion poll.
The Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center, owned and run by Professor Özer Sencar, conducted a survey on the course of politics in Turkey. Some of the chief questions in the survey were on the new CHP headed by Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu, which held an extraordinary congress last month and restructured its administration. The new administration is usually referred to as the “new CHP,” meaning a dynamic, pro-change and pro-freedom party.

However, the survey found that the new party administration would fail to carry the CHP to power. Responding to a question on whether K?l?çdaro?lu and his team would bring the CHP to power, an overwhelming 55.6 percent said “no,” while 38 percent said “yes,” and 6.4 percent declined to comment. Respondents were also questioned about the main opposition party’s prospects of settling the decades-old Kurdish problem. A full 71.9 percent said they do not believe the CHP would manage to solve the question. Only 20.4 percent expressed belief to the contrary.
The MetroPOLL survey has found that 55.6 percent of respondents do not believe the new CHP administration will carry the party to power. The figure suggests that the CHP is still far from being considered a serious rival to the AK Party in the elections
Turkey’s Kurdish problems have existed since the early years of the republic but turned violent in 1984 after the establishment of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). More than 40,000 civilians and security forces have been killed in PKK-government clashes thus far. The government hopes to solve the Kurdish question through giving more political and cultural rights to Kurds.
The survey also showed that pledges voiced by K?l?çdaro?lu on a number of issues are not being taken seriously by voters. While 38.7 percent believe the CHP leader is serious in his pledges, 52.5 percent do not believe he is serious. In addition, 67.4 percent of respondents said the new CHP administration should change its political discourse. According to a comparison between K?l?çdaro?lu and Deniz Baykal, the CHP’s former leader, K?l?çdaro?lu is believed to be more successful.
More than 41 percent of respondents said K?l?çdaro?lu is more successful than Baykal, but 25 percent said the contrary. More than 22 percent said both are unsuccessful. Pollsters also questioned respondents about their voting behavior. If parliamentary elections were held today, 45.3 percent of those polled said they would vote for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), a figure higher than in the March 2009 local elections, in which the ruling party won around 39 percent of the vote. The CHP would receive 30.7 percent of votes cast. The figure shows that the main opposition party has become more popular among voters thanks to the K?l?çdaro?lu team. According to MetroPOLL, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) would receive 13.8 percent of the national vote in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for June 2011. The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) would garner 6.5 percent.
The figures are reached through splitting the undecided votes, which the survey shows to be around 17 percent.
Public overwhelmingly opposed to bilingualism
Another question directed at respondents concerned their opinion of the ongoing debates over bilingualism for Turkey’s Kurds. Over 67 percent said they would not approve of the use of Kurdish along with Turkish in education.
For long years Kurds have asked the state to allow them to conduct schooling in Kurdish. The debate over the use of two languages was sparked by the BDP last month. BDP Co-chairman Selahattin Demirta? said they would begin a de facto bilingual system in municipalities in the eastern and southeastern parts of Turkey. He also said shop owners should be allowed to use Kurdish, give their businesses Kurdish names and speak with their customers in Kurdish, adding that there is no legal obstacle to this.
However, the BDP challenge got the cold shoulder from other political parties. Many claimed that the use of a second language in municipalities would lead to divisions in Turkey. In response to a question over what they think about the public use of Kurdish alongside Turkish in areas largely populated by Kurds, 53.5 percent said they do not approve, while slightly more than 44 percent answered in the affirmative. The opponents of Kurdish grew when the respondents were asked whether they would approve of seeing Kurdish spoken in state offices in areas largely populated by Kurds. Fully 80.3 percent said “no,” while only 17.3 percent said “yes.”

The survey also showed that the respondents were highly critical of egg-throwing protests against politicians. More than 73 percent said throwing eggs is not a democratic means of protest, and 24.3 percent answered to the contrary. In December, AK Party deputy Burhan Kuzu was targeted by protesting students throwing dozens of eggs at a university where he was supposed to give a speech. The respondents also expressed disapproval of the police’s violent treatment of university students during a protest in ?stanbul in December. More than 70 percent said they did not find the police treatment of students acceptable.

On foreign policy

Other questions concerning Turkey’s relations with foreign countries were also directed at respondents. Asked whether the border between Turkey and Armenia should be opened, 50.3 percent responded “no.” More than 27 percent responded “yes” and around 22 percent declined to comment. The Turkish-Armenian border has remained closed since 1993, when Turkey closed it in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan during its war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

More than 63 percent said Turkey should “freeze” relations with Israel, while 27.9 percent said it should improve relations with its former ally. Relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorated sharply after Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American on an aid ship trying to break the Gaza blockade on May 31. Ankara now demands an apology and an international investigation into the incident, saying that otherwise relations will not improve.

In response to a question over whether they would be happy or concerned if Iran developed nuclear weapons, 68.6 percent said they would be concerned. Nearly 23 percent, however, said they would be happy.

While 42.6 percent said the greatest threat to Turkey is posed by the US, 23.7 percent said it is Israel. Israel was followed by Iran with 3 percent, Greece with 2.3 percent, Iraq with 2.1 percent and Russia with 1.7 percent.

The survey also revealed that a clear majority of society supports Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. More than 53 percent said they would vote “yes” if a referendum were held today about Turkey’s aspirations to become a full member to the 27-nation bloc. Over 38 percent said they would vote “no.”

The poll was conducted from Dec. 25 to 29 by telephone among a random national sampling of 1,504 adults residing in cities, towns and villages. The margin of error for the overall poll is 2.5 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence level.


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