Opinion poll suggests huge gains for CHP; hollow victory for AK Party

Metropoll’s latest opinion poll* just over a week ago asked, among other things, for voting intention. Here are the topline percentages, with changes from the 2009 local election:

AK Party: 45.3 (+6.5) [Justice and Development Party, governing, religious conservative]
CHP: 30.7 (+7.3) [Republican People’s Party, secularist]
MHP: 13.8 (+0.3) [Nationalist Action Party, nationalist]
BDP: 6.5 (+2.7) [Peace and Democracy Party, pro-Kurdish]
SP: 1.3 (-0.3)** [Felicity Party, strongly Islamist]
DP: 0.6 (-0.5) [Democrat Party, centre-right]

HAS Party: 0.8 (-2.9)** [People’s Voice Party, split from SP]

Others: 0.5
These findings suggest a flock in support towards the four mainstream parties. This is interesting considering we are probably just over six months away from a general election, and Turkish political parties tend to proliferate – rather than unite – around this time.

If this were replicated at a general election, this would be a substantial stride forward for the CHP and its best result in 34 years. For other parties, this poll appears to reproduce the 2007 election result: the governing AK Party stages a recovery from its poor local election showing two years ago, whereas the MHP records a small drop in support that is within the margin of error. All other parties, save the BDP whose members will probably run as independents, fall below the 10 percent threshold.

So how would parliament look in such a scenario? Interestingly, despite the similarities in vote proportions to 2007, the seat distribution would look remarkably different:***

AK Party: 265 seats (-70)
CHP: 180 seats (+79)
MHP: 85 seats (+15)
BDP: 20 seats (no change)
The AK Party would shed around a fifth of its seats and lose its governing majority in the process. The CHP, meanwhile, would be far from able to govern alone and would seriously struggle to lead a coalition with these numbers, but would still become the single largest opposition party AK have ever seen. But why?

The answer lies in vote representation. In 2007, 89 percent of Turks voted for parties and independent candidates who ended up being represented in parliament. Under this poll, the figure would be 96.3 percent. If the findings of this opinion poll are correct, it represents an exodus of voters from the smaller parties. It suggests Turks are aware their vote is less likely to be represented if they don’t vote big.

* Metropoll interviewed 1504 people in 31 Turkish provinces between 25 and 29 December 2010. The full survey can be found here.

** The HAS Party split off from the SP late last year. Figures for both parties are compared to SP’s 2009 local election result.
*** The above 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, this poll would roughly produce the following seat distribution in parliament (with changes from the present situation).
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