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MHP crashes below threshold in opinion poll, but result is really a CHP victory

Just two parties are likely to cross the 10 percent threshold at the next Turkish election, according to the latest Haberturk/Konsensüs opinion poll. The results, which paint a dangerous picture for voter representation in Turkey, suggest the right-wing Nationalist Action Party (MHP) has the support of only 8.5 percent of voters, which would be the party’s worst showing at a general election for nine years.

Just under a quarter of respondents were undecided, said would spoil their ballot or declined to answer the question. Here was what Konsensüs found, with the undecided vote shared among the parties and changes from the previous month’s survey in brackets:

AK Party: 49.6 (+3.6) [Justice and Development Party, governing, religious conservative]

CHP: 26.8 (+0.3) [Republican People’s Party, secularist]

MHP: 11.1 (-1.4) [Nationalist Action Party, nationalist]

BDP: 6.9 (+0.2) [Peace and Democracy Party, pro-Kurdish]

SP: 0.8 (-2.4) [Felicity Party, strongly Islamist]

Others: 5.6 (+0.5)

AK Party sources were delighted: this poll appears to confirm that their oft-repeated target of a 50% is quite attainable. Press coverage has also focused much on the fate of the MHP, which falls foul of the electoral threshold before the undecideds are shared out. It confirms fears that the dwindling support of the nationalists means that they have a real battle on their hands to ensure they actually make it into the chamber.

But press coverage of the results seems to have overlooked the support of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Take a look at my estimated calculations of what parliament would look like (based, as ever, on my calculations**, and with changes from the 2007 election result):

AK Party: 301 (-40)
CHP: 162 (+50)
MHP: 67 (-4)
BDP: 20 seats (no change)
Total: 550 seats

These results would give AK a majority to govern alone – just. But they would also give the CHP their best results since 2002, but this time in a parliament of three parties, not two. This parliament would have a much stronger opposition, despite the rise in AK’s share of the vote. It would be an excellent result for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, CHP leader.

A few other observations from this opinion poll:

  • Voters appear to be flocking towards the larger parties. Fewer people said they will vote for the far-right BBP or the fundamentalist SP. This trend suggests Turkish voters are increasingly aware fringe parties are unlikely to be represented in parliament.
  • Konsensüs posed a number of “problems” in Turkish current affairs and asked which party was best-placed to solve them. The AK Party, unsurprisingly, led in them all, but it was interesting that just a few percentage points separated them from the CHP when asked which party was best placed to solve “inequalities in income distribution”. A sign that the CHP’s return to social democratic roots might be taking hold?
  • Most importantly, this poll was conducted well over a month before the election campaign kicks off. There’s plenty that can change between now and 12 June.

* Konsensüs interviewed 1500 people by telephone across Turkey between 2 and 10 February 2011.
** This is a crude and entirely unscientific swing, assuming the 10 percent electoral threshold is not lowered and the pro-Kurdish BDP’s 20 MPs decide to run again as independents.

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