Did CHP win the Turkish election, or did AKP lose it?

After the March 31 local election, evaluations suggested that the main determinant of CHP’s victory was low AKP turnout. However a ballot-based analysis points to a different picture. What is behind CHP’s unexpected victory?The local elections on March 31 produced results far beyond expectations. Immediately after the election, evaluations suggested that the main determinant of CHP’s victory was low AKP turnout. However, a ballot-based analysis points to a different picture. Before delving into its details, it is useful to evaluate three important factors that influenced the election results.Economic perception did not improve before MarchOne of the significant assumptions before the May 2023 elections was that the dissatisfaction with the poor economic situation would direct AKP voters, towards the opposition bloc which included right-wing and conservative parties. However, this did not happen. There were political and economic reasons for this. The political reason can be summarized as the unity of the opposition not creating trust among AKP voters. The economic reason was the government’s fiscal expansion before the election, which managed to relatively improve voters’ perception of the economy.Remember, during that period, the increase in the minimum wage and the announcement of a second increase, the introduction of the EYT regulation (early retirement), and practices like KKM (FX protected deposit scheme) had improved the pre-election perception, even though they would lead to disastrous results later. However, the government could not implement a similar fiscal expansion before the March 2024 elections. The minimum wage was increased by 50 percent but the disappointment especially among retirees is one of the most striking example. The graph below shows the change in economic perception before the May 2023 and March 2024 elections, according to Türkiye Raporu measurements. As described above, we see that there was no similar recovery before the March 2024 elections.Target 2028: Alliances Starting OverDevelopments after the May elections revealed a scene where the opposition Nation Alliance dissolved, but the People’s Alliance remained together. However, looking at the number of candidates and the places they were nominated for the elections, we see that the change is not only on the opposition side. For example, the Yeniden Refah Party, the star of the election, became one of the top 5 parties with the most candidates by nominating over 900 district candidates. On the other hand, AKP and MHP nominated candidates in over 300 districts simultaneously. Moreover, in the 378 districts where CHP nominated candidates, the DEM Party did not. Thus, each party’s position in this election, in preparation for the 2028 elections, presented a very different picture from the national alliance structure.CHP’s Candidate Selection MethodHigh-profile mistakes that came to public attention, especially in Hatay, created the perception that CHP’s candidate selection process was disorganized. However, we now understand that despite the mistakes, the process was systematically carried out and successful, generally combining the general staff’s intelligence with frequent surveys.Who Voted for Whom?Let’s answer the question we initially asked. When comparing the 2023 and 2024 elections on a ballot basis, we see that about 30 percent of the voters who voted for AKP in May 2023 did not vote for AK P in this election. This 30 percent is divided into three main blocks. Approximately 2 million AKP voters did not go to the polls, while 1.5 million voted for CHP and 1.4 million for Yeniden Refah Party. Therefore, of the approximately 5 million voters who voted for AKP in 2023 but not in this election, 3 million chose two other parties. This result shows that while the AKP voters who did not vote constitute a significant group, they are not the only factor explaining the ballot success of CHP and YRP. 1.4 million voters who did not vote in 2023 chose CHP in this election. Undoubtedly, a significant part of this electorate consists of young people voting for the first time.The analysis also shows that a significant portion of voters who voted for MHP and YSP in the 2023 elections did not go to the polls. The main reason for the decline in İYİ Party is the votes distributed between CHP and AKP and the voters who did not go to the polls.In summary, looking at the national level, we see that the main determinant of CHP’s victory is not low AKP turnout. Certainly, the decrease in participation in specific election districts played a role in losing mayorships, but the votes CHP received from AKP, İYİ Party, and new voters were the main elements of the election success.

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