How Turkey’s ever-baffling voters will act a month from now is, still, a grand puzzle. There is no doubt June 7 will be a ‘national day of reckoning’ for the country.
It is a referendum about the ‘Erdoğan’s Way’, as much as a collective decision for the path to be chosen by roughly 56 million voters: ‘enough’ or ‘go ahead’ for the normalization; ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to what Latin America called ‘autogolpe’ (a power grab).
How much of a puzzle we stand before was verified the other evening when we — a group of select journalists — were presented an important survey conducted by Koç University, Ohio State University and the Open Society Foundation. The academic team was led by the respected Prof Ali Çarkoğlu, and supported by another scholar of high esteem, Prof. Ersin Kalaycıoğlu.
The core study aimed not to be just another guessing game of whether the party would come out winning or losing. Rather, as it was titled, it offered us comparative data on the social dynamics ahead of the June 7 elections. Conducted with around 2,000 people in 49 provinces, its value lay in the fact that similar studies were done before previous elections in 2002, 2007 and 2011.
The reading of the study makes it very clear, at the outset, that the positive perceptions for democratic transformation and hopes had, in many aspects, reached a peak in around 2011 — and this one followed the referendum on key constitutional amendments — at which point trends show a downward fall.
“Those who are dismayed about the way democracy functions are 45 percent,” Çarkoğlu told us. ‘This indicator, which we have monitored since 2006, was as low as 33 percent in 2011. From then on, a steady negative rise has been noted.”
The key element for the color of the vote remains a given: the economy. But, perhaps more crucially than ever before, the perceptions are about its downhill trends as well.
“Voter observations show negative signs” said Çarkoğlu.
“Those voters who thought the economy was going badly stood at 24 percent in 2013. This went up to 30 percent in 2014 and now it is as high as 48 percent.”
One focus of voter anxiety is unemployment (39 percent). Other indicators in the study also show a negative perception over the decreasing figures of growth.
The survey tells us that the public finds the AKP least successful in three areas: unemployment, its Syria policy and the fight against corruption. What it finds most successful is the headscarf issue, healthcare and urban transformation.
The survey is also a wake-up call for the public….