Turkey: The 50 percent + 1 vote panic of the Erdoğan’s government

Translated by Melissa Clissold

The fact that Faruk Çelik, Erdoğan’s consultant and previous minister, suggested to lift the obligation of receiving 50 % + 1 votes needed in the presidential elections and change it to a 40 percent for the first round, shows us clearly the crisis that the administration is going through. And for Erdoğan to look warmly upon this is no surprise as it works in his favour. This shows us that the voter base is changing.

Hello, good day. The suggestion that 40 percent of the votes should be enough in the first round of the presidential elections has come to the agenda. The one who proposed this change was Faruk Çelik, one of President Erdoğan’s current consultants and an old minister. Çelik is someone who has been around from the founding of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), someone who has come from the Welfare Party (RP), and has always remained in the close circle of Erdoğan. He had taken on important roles, but later he was somewhat benched, and lately assigned to the committee as consultant. 

Faruk Çelik said, “There is no need to tire our voters. If a candidate receives more than 40 percent of the votes, then we must accept them as being chosen. There is no need for them to go to the second round.” And when this topic was raised yesterday in parliament, Erdoğan gave signals that he found this suggestion to be a positive one, he did not reject it, he did not say “Where has this come from? No way.” This actually shocked me a little. It shocked me because: 50 % + 1 votes mean that anyone who has received one more vote in addition to 50 percent of the votes, has gained everything in Turkey – this is the system that Erdoğan has established. I think that the 50 % + 1 aspect in this system was one of the smartest things – something he did according to himself – that he has done. When we look at things, traditionally in Turkey, even if this is not as meaningful as it used to be in the past and has changed meaning, there is a clear advantage of the right wing in Turkey.

There is a prominent view that centre-left parties nearly receive around a third of the vote; and for a long time, other than certain exceptions, this has been the case. Due to the fact that the right is divided among itself, the left has of course taken advantage of this or coalitions have been formed. But for the Motherland Party (ANAP), and AKP in the latest period, when strong parties come out of the right, they can become the ruling administration.

Therefore, in the presidential election – and this is in fact a congressional system -, when the condition exists that 50 % + 1 votes must be gained, it doesn’t matter whether the first round or second, you already nearly eliminate the chance for anyone from the left to win. A right-wing party comes and a president is chosen in Turkey – In normal circumstances, this is the case. When you look at it in that respect, the 50+1 votes were a vote guarantee for Erdoğan. Despite this, in the latest elections on June 24 2018, we are talking about a Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who by himself – of course with the support of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), because they didn’t put forward a candidate, he managed to receive 52,6 percent of the votes. 

What has happened within the past year? A lot of things; yes, they are in a very serious crisis, but for the political administration to fear the 50 + 1 votes option, and for them to try and find certain new ways is very surprising – I was personally surprised. Of course, we know this: Erdoğan is going to try every way to win; but this was one of the last options to fall back on – I was obviously mistaken. 

He started there; the cancellation of the 50 % + 1 vote obligation was put forward. This is going to be used one way or another. Whether this takes place or not, this will be on the agenda. Of course, the fact that this is on the agenda suggests to us that Erdoğan’s crisis has truly taken him to a desperate place. If he truly is sacrificing the 50 % + 1 system, then this means that his position is indeed serious. The surprising element of all this is this: he himself believes that this is a bad situation, though the opposition does not seem as concerned; or the sombre situation Erdoğan sees himself to be in, is not seen as a positive situation for the opposition – or at least, they are not acting like it is. 

I doubt that this is the case. In my opinion there is a desperate administration that is losing, is aware that it is losing and is trying to prevent this. But on the other hand, there is still an opposition in place that does not see the state of the administration, an opposition that has cold feet, trying to adapt to Erdoğan. And there are some from the Good Party (İYİ Party), one of the parties of the opposition, that do not seem to want to create a lot of distance with Erdoğan. We are face to face with this interesting situation.

The Erdoğan I know, from the time he was provincial head in the RP, is someone that has really valued surveys – he always carries them out, tests the waters. I am sure that the suggestion that 50 + 1 should change to 40 percent comes from somewhere, I am guessing that he has carried out some research, because this is critical, a strategic move. This is not a simple “It doesn’t matter if its 40 rather than 50” – this is serious. 

Of course, the most important aspect here is the June 23 elections. He renewed the elections there and when he saw that the opposition candidate – Ekrem İmamoğlu – suddenly gained more than 50 votes, he must have beeen concerned that the same could happen during presidential elections. He is probably right with his concern; but when we question this concern, there must be some serious changes occurring regarding the typology of the voters in Turkey. Something must be taking place, and as a result of this, there is a stepping away from the 50 percent approach. This something taking place shows us that the “Someone from the right in Turkey would never vote for someone close to the left” approach is degrading; Istanbul was an example of this. For this to spread across the whole of Turkey, would be a huge change, in fact it would be a revolution in Turkey. 

In this regard, such a question comes to mind: What sort of candidate could win against Erdoğan if he/she managed to go to the second round? This is the golden question. I tried to debate this a little yesterday, asking the question “Who can be an alternative to Erdoğan?”, and stating that this needs to be a team not an individual. Of course, an individual will be at the forefront, but there will be other names beside them. I stated that I believed such a collaboration could truly shake the roots of Erdoğan’s administration. 

We can return to the same topic when it comes to the 50-40 debate, and that is this: Erdoğan, in the end, despite all the details, despite all problems, is known to be the candidate of the right-wing in Turkey; and Muharrem İnce, who is appearing on your screen right now was known to be the left-wing candidate and despite all that support he did not manage to gain more than 30 percent of the votes. Let’s say that no one managed to pass more than 50 percent in the first round of the presidential elections; on the one hand there is Erdoğan, on the other hand there is the opposition candidate. What sort of candidate is making Erdoğan think that he may not receive more than 50 percent of the votes in the second round? One option is that this may be someone from the right, like himself. 

So, we are face to face with the following option: The whole opposition block – the current Nation Alliance; there may be new participants among them, new things put forward – opposing Erdoğan, they may come together around a name who has openly come from the right – the first who comes to mind is Meral Akşener. But the fact that she only received 7 percent of the votes as a candidate in the latest elections does not make this option that feasible. But let’s say that Ali Babacan or someone else who will come out of that movement or someone who isn’t even around just yet. Erdoğan may be concerned for such a candidate being put forward; but I think that no matter who is chosen to oppose him, the possibility of a strong block opposing him concerns him more. 

When we look at things in this respect, a popular name such as Ekrem İmamoğlu, despite being a mayor from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), managed to receive votes from the right, in fact the AKP. If he enters the election with certain strong names from the right beside him, if he manages to pass the first round, he may be able to gain more than 50 votes, perhaps even 50 % + 1.

Because in the latest period, a lot of things are changing in Turkey; the fact that Erdoğan cannot accept this loss and crisis, and the fact that he is pretending that everything is ok – regarding the economy, politics, strategic issues – the fact that he believes everything is alright and that with a few touch-ups in his alliance, that he can solve these issues and crisis, truly reduces his impact and deems him even more ineffective. In the last few days, certain surveys have been talked about; Erdoğan’s popularity is far from what it used to be. I think that this is true, but the main person responsible for this, the reason for not wanting to face the truth, is himself. 

From the moment he said “40 percent instead of 50 percent”, he managed to bring about a displeasure among his own fractions. Because one of his most important features as a politician was his confidence in knowing that he would win. But now there is an image of an Erdoğan who wants to go from a 50 percent to 40, this shows that he is concerned about losing. Consequently, there is an administration in place making very serious mistakes. This mistake isn’t new, they made a lot of mistakes, they are making huge mistakes; they did this by re-doing the elections, they do it with other things too. 

Erdoğan Is making a mistake by not trying to prevent the people breaking away from within the party and this has impacted the public too. In conclusion we must accept that a party that states “The person who wins 40 votes instead of 50 should be declared the winner”, has a lower chance of winning 40 percent too. 

Yes, the administration continues to determine the agenda, but the agenda he has declared is working against him. And this supports the thought I have put forward for a long time that suggests the crisis of the administration is getting deeper every day.


This is all I have to say, good day.

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