Parties attract large crowds at rallies as excitement soars

TODAY’S ZAMAN
?STANBUL

Turkey will have its general elections next Sunday, with almost all polls indicating that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which is currently in power, will emerge as the winner. However, this year’s election rallies have been filled with surprises, and for the most part observers are not sure if they are indicative of voter preferences. One thing is for certain though, larger crowds are attending rallies, and the size of the crowds seems to be growing as election day nears.
On Saturday, AK Party leader and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an held an election rally in ?zmir, traditionally a stronghold of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), drawing huge crowds. Similarly, CHP leader Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu spoke to an impressive crowd in Kazl?çe?me, a vast square in ?stanbul which is hard to fill for most party leaders, with the exception of the AK Party. According to most reports, some 750,000 people or even as many as 1 million people showed up for K?l?çdaro?lu’s rally, said to be a record crowd for the CHP in Kazl?çe?me.
But do rally-goers vote for the parties whose rallies they attend? The answer is a resounding no, if one takes another surprising crowd in Hakkari that gathered to listen to CHP leader K?l?çdaro?lu last month. The crowd was incredibly huge in Hakkari, where the CHP got only 156 votes in the last election, but most of it were known supporters of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which seems to support the CHP’s visibility in the mainly Kurdish cities of the Southeast and some Kurdish-dominated cities of the East against the AK Party, the BDP’s only real rival in the area. It is unlikely that any of that rally’s participants will actually vote for the CHP. The BDP has openly admitted to directing its supporters to go hear K?l?çdaro?lu speak.

Another unexpected crowd showed up to listen to Felicity Party (SP) Chairman Mustafa Kamalak on Saturday in Kad?köy. Hundreds of thousands came to the rally of the SP, which received 2.3 percent of the total vote at the last elections.

Yet another surprise might come on Monday, when the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will have its first Diyarbak?r rally in years. The nationalist party wants to make a display of power in this Kurdish city, but if there is a huge crowd, most of its members will be MHP supporters who traveled from other cities. There are also serious security concerns. The MHP’s rally will take place two days after the BDP’s rally in the same city, where the party put on a great display of power. Thousands showed up in the square during the mostly eventless and peaceful rally.

What polls say

There are also election polls conducted by various research agencies. All but one of these agree that the AK Party is bound to win the June 12 general elections, although their estimated vote percentages vary. However, the poll results might even be more misleading in terms of their representativeness of the form Parliament will take after the election, as a high percentage of votes does not necessarily mean more seats when it comes to calculating the number of deputies each party sends to Parliament. That depends on how many parties beat Turkey’s voter threshold of 10 percent and how many independents enter Parliament.

For example, if the AK Party receives 47 percent of the vote, as predicted by some polls, the estimated number of seats it will have in Parliament is 326, as opposed to the 363 parliamentary seats it earned in the 2002 elections, with just 34.28 percent of the vote. In 2007, the AK Party increased its vote to 47 percent, but the number of seats it won fell to 341 because the MHP and independent deputies endorsed by the BDP — who later joined the BDP and formed a parliamentary group — entered Parliament in that year’s elections. Erdo?an predicted a few months ago that the AK Party will get between 314 and 335 deputies.

The BDP, which finds it difficult to surpass Turkey’s 10 percent voter threshold, endorses independents in all electoral districts to circumvent the barrier.

Most recently, Erdo?an announced his predictions based on a poll conducted by his party on the STV station on Saturday night. He predicted his party will get around 47 percent, followed by the CHP with 28 percent and the MHP with 11 percent of the vote. The BDP endorsed independents and other independents will receive 7 percent according to the AK Party poll, while all others will fall below the election barrier, getting 7 percent of the vote in total. If the results were truly as such, the AK Party would win 326 seats, the CHP 160, the MHP 36 and the BDP independents and others combined would win 28 seats in Parliament.

Another recent poll, conducted by pollster Andy-AR in the first few days of June, has it that the MHP will fall below the barrier. The poll predicts the AK Party coming in first with an overwhelming 51 percent of the vote, in which case the AK Party would have 370 seats in Parliament (with the MHP left out of Parliament with 9 percent of the vote). The CHP, the poll predicts, will get 28 percent, earning it 150 seats. This poll also predicted the BDP and other independents’ total as 7 percent, but they would get 30 seats this time, as the MHP won’t be able to make it above the threshold.

Sonar offered its seat distribution prediction based on a recent poll from late May. The distribution was calculated to display the worst-case scenario for the AK Party and the best-case scenario for the CHP. Sonar’s polls show the AK Party as wining 44 percent of the vote, which adds up to 310 deputies. The CHP wins 28 percent of the vote and 154 seats, while the MHP gets 56 seats by winning 13 percent of the vote. BDP independents and other independents get 30 seats and 7 percent of the total vote. The rest win 8 percent.

A poll conducted by GENAR shows the AK Party at 48 percent, with 340 seats, the CHP at 25 percent with 137 seats, the MHP at 11 percent with 44 seats, the independents combined at 6 percent with 29 seats and the rest combined at 10 percent. Similarly, the most recent election poll conducted by MetroPOLL has the AK Party at 46 percent, winning 326 seats; the CHP at 27 percent, winning 142 seats; and the MHP at 13 percent with 54 deputies. Independents earn 28 seats with 6 percent of the vote.

The only poll that sees the AK Party below 40 percent was the one conducted by S?SAM. This poll predicts the AK Party winning 38 percent of the vote and only 273 seats, followed by the CHP wining 32 percent of the vote and gaining 183 seats and the MHP with 61 seats and 14 percent of the vote. Independents get 33 seats with 8 percent of the vote, and the others earn 8 percent of the vote. This would be a nightmarish scenario for the AK Party; in this outcome, the AK Party could not form a government by itself.

 


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