AKP’s agenda: The conservative Kurdish voters who are moving away from AKP
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Diyarbakir, which was postponed due to the coal mine explosion in Amasra, will take place on Sunday. All state institutions, especially the Diyarbakir Governor's Office have been mobilized for the program, and calls have been made to keep attendance high. Due to the upcoming elections, participation in Erdogan’s Diyarbakir visit is important for the government. AKP might be wishing to send a message in Diyarbakir against claims that "Kurdish voters have moved away from the AKP.”
THE KURDISH ELECTORATE IS ON THE AGENDA OF AKP DEPUTIES
According to the polls, the party which has lost largest number of votes is the AKP. Conservative Kurdish voters are at the forefront of the electorate that is moving away from the AKP. The security policies implemented regarding the Kurdish issue; AKP being in line with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP); the economic crisis and restrictive policies regarding fundamental rights and freedoms are the main reasons why the Kurdish voters are moving away from the AKP.
According to the information gathered by Arti Gercek from the backstages of the parliament, Kurdish voters, especially those living in the western provinces are on the agenda of AKP deputies.
THE LARGEST SPLIT IS IN THE WESTERN PROVINCES
According to AKP members, Kurds living in the western cities are cutting away from the AKP, especially in Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara. Reports suggest that nationalism, the rhetoric, and intolerance towards the Kurdish language affect this electorate the most. AKP members state that although there is a partial balance in eastern cities, the Kurdish voters in the west are moving away from them: “In the provinces where we are faced with the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the tendency of the voters are more or less clear. Yet the situation is very serious in the west. We observe this when we go to the coffee houses in many districts of Istanbul. Voters who move away from us go directly to HDP. Even if they do not say that they drifted towards HDP, it is obvious that they are moving away from us."
“NOBODY WANTS TO BE SEEN WITH THE RULING PARTY”
If this is the case in the west, what is the situation like in the southeastern cities? A politician from the AKP pointed out that the situation in the southeast is not much different. They say that when they are among the public and when they introduce themselves, they are met with displeasure:
“The AKP is the ruling party. Under normal circumstances, it should not be risky to be seen with the party in government. Yet nobody wants to be seen with this party. The deputies call their relatives, acquaintances, and people who follow our directives to take photos with them. After they share the photo, everyone leaves. Except for the vehicles used by the politicians who are going to the villages and their security, there is no participation and nobody forms a convoy. The people had enough because the party abandoned its traditional politics. The rhetoric of the MHP became dominant. There is also the economic crisis. The people are aware of it. In the past, when a road was built, the voters would say, 'how did they make a road by piercing the mountains', but now they say ‘I wonder what profit was made with this contract?’ There is a serious discontent and alienation among the public.”
AKP CAN LOSE DEPUTIES IN MANY CITIES
Expressing that the alienation of the electorate is not limited to just one province, the politician said that there is a serious decrease in support in Agri and Mus, which are two provinces that are a subject for debate in every election. According to the information inside the party, with the current situation, AKP will lose one of its deputies in both of these two provinces. It is stated that a similar situation might happen in Sanliurfa, Erzurum, Elazig, Bingol, Diyarbakir, and Malatya.
AKP VOTES IN DIYARBAKIR ARE LOWER THAN 15 PERCENT
It is no secret that not only the AKP party organizations but also many state-owned institutions are working in the region. There are criticisms from the opposition that the governors and trustees work as if they are the AKP provincial chairs. Allegedly, the former governor and trustee of Diyarbakir conducted public opinion polls in the city many times. In all the polls commissioned by the trustee, the AKP vote was far below the 21 percent it received in the 2018 General Elections. Reports suggest that in almost all of the polls commissioned by the governor, the vote of the ruling party was below 15 percent.
THE DOMINANT OPINION WITHIN THE AKP IS THAT “REIS WILL DO SOMETHING”
Does not Erdogan know about the problems and the discontent of the Kurdish voters? According to an AKP politician, party organs are aware of the situation. All problems have been reported to the AKP headquarters from regularly, but instead of eliminating discontent, they did the opposite. What is reported is that the dominant opinion in the party is that "Reis (the unofficial nickname of Erdogan meaning ‘The Chief’) will do something as the elections draw near." There are expectations that there will be an intervention via money transfers before the elections, and that Erdogan will create a new atmosphere with public rallies.
MORE ATTENTION WILL BE GIVEN TO THE RURAL REGIONS
Is this expectation realistic? What kind of path will Erdogan follow shortly before the election? According to AKP members on the field, there is no expectation that a different rhetoric it to be used in the Kurdish issue than the one currently used. They accept the fact that the economic situation in the city centers is devastating and that the biggest loss of votes will happen there. They want to keep the rural areas as the elections approach. AKP members, who think that those living in rural areas are not as affected by the economy as those in city centers are convinced that the focus will be on those areas.
THERE ARE EXPECTATIONS FROM HUDA-PAR
A politician who stated that preparations are being made for the elections with strong candidates, large families, and capital power, hinted that the Free Cause Party (Huda-Par) and Islamic communities can also play a role. Explaining that Huda-Par has supported President Erdogan since 2015, the politician explained how this situation would benefit Huda-Par and added:
“Even if Huda-Par cannot get a ministry position, it has serious local opportunities. It receives great support in the forms of job opportunities, positions, and through NGOs that are close to them. They also do not want to lose these opportunities. As we get closer to election time, Huda-Par and preachers of Islamic communities will appear on the field to gain votes through faith-based efforts. Intensive work will be carried out in rural areas and not in city centers. Combined with the influence of the central government, elections will be held in such an atmosphere.”
THEY ACCEPT THAT THE ELECTORATE IS DRIFTING AWAY
All of the AKP members we spoke to on the field agree that the Kurdish voters are parting ways with them. All agree that the outcome of the elections will be determined by the HDP in particular, and by the Kurdish voters in general. A politician conducting research in the field stated that although the HDP voters will not join them, they can still win the elections. The politician said: “Yes, it is true that there are voters who are drifting away from us. Yet, the alienated voters do not drift toward the opposition either. Those voters are waiting and following developments. If certain steps are taken in the economy and messages that voters expect are given, we can see these voters. Those voters are watching the President.”