by Leo Kendrick
Polls released by research firm KONDA last week have shown surging support for the IYI Party, one of the two major parties in Turkey’s Nation Alliance (Millet İttifakı) opposition coalition. The polls, conducted last month, also showed diminished support for the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP), as well as their coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The polls follow recent attempts by the opposition to broaden its political tent heading into Turkey’s next presidential election, expected to take place in 2023. Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu‘s comments on the Kurdish question last month were interpreted by many as an overture to the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which enjoys broad support in Turkey’s heavily Kurdish southeastern provinces. Although the HDP remains outside of the main opposition coalition, Kılıçdaroğlu’s comments were seen as an attempt to win the support of the Kurdish electorate.
The main story following the release of the KONDA results, however, was the surge in IYI Party support. According to the poll, the party enjoys 19.3% support, an increase from 15.7% in July. With the increase in IYI Party support, the Nation Alliance’s support has increased to 44.1%, an increase of 2.8% since July. The IYI Party and CHP are the two main parties in the Nation Alliance coalition, and are expected to run a joint presidential candidate in 2023.
While the IYI Party’s support has soared in recent months, both the AKP and MHP have seen their numbers slide. The KONDA poll from last week showed a nearly four-point loss for the AKP compared to results from July, placing their support at 32.7%. The MHP’s support also fell to 8.9%, placing the ruling People’s Alliance (Cumhur İttifakı) share of electoral support at 45.4%, neck-in-neck with the opposition coalition.
In addition to friendly overtures towards the Kurdish electorate in recent weeks, coalescence on the opposition side has been evidenced by a series of face-to-face meetings between party leaders. Earlier this week, Kılıçdaroğlu met with Saadet Party chairman Temel Karamollaoğlu, after which both leaders praised the meeting as productive and voiced similar complaints about the ruling AKP/MHP coalition. The meeting came after a visit between Karamollaoğlu and DEVA Party chairman Ali Babacan last week. Meanwhile, IYI Party’s Meral Akşener reportedly also met with Democrat Party leader Gültekin Uysal this week, having met with Babacan the previous week.
Opposition parties have also been actively campaigning across Turkey since the lifting of most coronavirus restrictions this past summer, organizing in person events across the country. Akşener has reportedly visited some 54 provinces across Turkey during this time. Kılıçdaroğlu has also been on the move across the country of late, while the HDP has organized over 130 events in 55 different cities. AKP and MHP party leaders, however, have mostly shied away from public events, preferring intra-party meetings. Erdoğan did make a visit to Diyarbakir in July, which was seen as an attempt to win support from Kurdish voters.
As opposition parties continue to coalesce in the hopes of defeating Erdoğan and the People’s Alliance in 2023, various hints have been given regarding what a transfer of power may look like should the opposition emerge victorious. Near the top of the list is a return to Turkey’s previous parliamentary system. Hinting at a possible return to this system, Meral Akşener was recently quoted saying “I will be Prime Minister, not President.” The current presidential system under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was introduced following a tightly contested and controversial 2017 referendum. Meral Akşener has been floated as a potential presidential candidate ahead of 2023.