Confounding expectations again

Well, it looks like today’s Turkish snap poll was conclusive after all, and I should have listened harder to that nagging feeling I had yesterday that was telling me not to completely discount polling that showed Tayyip Erdoğan‘s AKP having regained enough support to put itself back in the majority. The preliminary results look like this:

Those numbers may change a little; as most of the remaining outstanding ballots are reportedly in big cities, where AKP doesn’t do as well as it does elsewhere, you might see that 49.7% come down a hair. There’s probably not enough remaining slack to change the outcome, though, by which I mean that HDP will barely clear the 10% minimum to be seated in parliament and AKP will win a sole majority. No fooling, this is a major upset (and definitely one that yours truly didn’t see coming); most of the pre-election polling had AKP maybe gaining a percentage point or two but still falling short of a majority. They’ve outperformed their June result by ~8 points and outperformed the most favorable pre-election poll I saw by ~2 points.

The results from the last time Turkey tried this, in June, were like so:


This means that HDP and MHP were the big losers. MHP losing votes I understand; it’s why I wasn’t totally ready to discount this possibility yesterday. It’s not that hard to imagine that some of MHP’s more moderate (these things are relative) voters may have gone over to AKP after that Ankara bombing earlier this month in a vote for order and stability. The same thing may have happened to HDP, whose support includes some non-Kurdish left-leaning voters and right-learning Kurds; voters from either of those groups may have gone to AKP, even though Erdoğan has spent the last five months waging war against the Kurds. It’s possible that the Kurdish vote may have been somewhat suppressed because of that violence, though according to media reporting that doesn’t seem to have been the case at first glance. Obviously the electoral analyses that are coming in the next couple of weeks will try to answer these questions.

There will undoubtedly be some accusations of voting fraud aimed at Erdoğan now, and there will certainly be complaints about conducting elections under a climate of media restrictions and in the midst of a conflict that’s looking more and more like a civil war. But look, these elections are being pretty heavily monitored: by international/European monitors, by the opposition parties, by international media, and so on. It’s best to wait and see if any formal complaints are made and evidence of some systematic pattern of fraud can be found. As to the other charge, has Erdoğan used war with the Kurds as an electoral tactic? In part, I guess, but it’s not as though the Kurds haven’t played right into that tactic (or at least they did until the Ankara bombing, when the PKK called a unilateral ceasefire).

Overall turnout in the snap election appears to have been high, by the way, at least as high as it was in June. It should be noted that AKP’s estimated 316 seats will be a majority, but they’re not enough to push through any constitutional amendments (367) or to force a national referendum on constitutional changes (330), so Erdoğan‘s desire to rewrite the constitution to increase the powers of his own office are still probably going to be stymied for the foreseeable future.

“It’s OK, baby steps”

I’ll have more to write as the dust clears this week, but I want to note that the immediate effect of this outcome is likely to be a worsening in the conflict with the Kurds. And the reason I want to note that is because it’s already started, in the mostly-Kurdish city of Diyarbakır:

Turkish security forces fired tear gas at protesters in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Sunday as they demonstrated against the results of a general election, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

Dozens of protesters, some throwing stones, blocked a road near the center of the largest city in the southeast after partial election results showed support for the pro-Kurdish opposition falling perilously close to the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

Now that Erdoğan has the electoral outcome he wants (or at least the best he’s going to get for now), he could theoretically let up on the Kurds and try to restart peace talks. But since this new round of violence all started because of Erdoğan‘s fears about a Kurdish enclave forming in northern Syria, and the US may be about to help expand that enclave, I’m not sure Erdoğan is going to be reaching out to the Kurds anytime soon. We may know what he plans to do about the Kurds pretty quickly; if he doesn’t try to settle things down in the immediate aftermath of this vote, he’s unlikely to do so at all.

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