Why Erdogan is still popular despite the Twitter ban
How did Prime Minister Erdogan emerge victorious in Turkey’s local elections?
In a real world with real problems, people choose their government depending on their performance in delivering viable results. One may not like the way a person dresses, looks or talks but at the end of the day, if he can enable you to feed your family and provide security and stability, he gets the votes. An overwhelming majority of foreign analysts failed to understand the decision process of the Turkish people, so I will try to explain it here briefly.
Biases can cloud judgment: I understand why a great amount of the Western analysts wanted to see the AK Party lose the elections in Turkey. They were calculating that the strong criticism of the prime minister as of late, as well as that perhaps Turkey would be more Western-oriented under the aegis of another party, would certainly mean an electoral debacle for the AK Party. I should say the foreign analysts were starting from an erroneous point when calculating all of these; therefore, it’s high time the West starts understanding Turkey a bit deeper.
5,000 easy steps to understanding the Turkish electorate
Turkey is a Muslim -majority democratic country in the Middle East. Even though many people are lured to the new clean roads and shiny buildings of some Gulf cities, what Turkey offers to her citizens is not a set of permits, but a full-fledged democracy with genuinely functioning institutions. Being in the Middle East, it has been far more difficult for Turkey to develop this structure and preserve it.
Despite popular belief, the majority of the people don’t overreact and stop voting for a party because of a temporary ban on a social siteCeylan Ozbudak
With the latest corruption investigations and the leaked tapes in Turkey, there has been a certain degree of polarization in the public. In times of polarization, anywhere in the world quite frankly, the number of neutral or non-affiliated voters decrease and there is a greater tendency to affiliate with one side of the argument or the other. This has served to increase the votes of both the center -right (AK Party) and the center- left (CHP) in Turkey. The votes of the center- right increased more in comparison, especially concerning the tapes and corruption allegations, it was because the electorate made a calculation. Their calculation was mainly based on two factors:
1. Even if the corruption allegations are true, corruption doesn’t destroy a democracy. The suspects would be punished and democracy continues; however, if we topple a government because of corruption allegations, the possibility of a military coup taking place arises and it goes without saying that a coup effectively annihilates democracy. The Turkish electorate is very protective of their democracy.
2. When we look at the corruption allegations in total, we can see that some people may well have used some sort of money or power to their own benefit; however, specifically regarding Prime Minister Erdogan, the Turkish people believe he only acted as a hub to redirect unofficial investments, and this amount essentially returned to the people in the form of new services. Simply put, very few people believe Erdogan used this money for himself.
Where are the Gulen people’s votes?
When it comes to the Gulen movement (Hizmet) and the effect of its parting with the governing party, the majority of analysts thought this would bring the AK Party to an end. This mistaken analysis was largely due to the formidable media power and the influence of the Hizmet on academia. However, if the Hizmet were an actual political party, they likely wouldn’t garner more than 0.2 percent of the votes. The ongoing battle against the AK Party in the Gulen media may have attracted the attention of the foreign media, but in practice, its effect on the electorate was negligible.
On the other hand, as I said in my previous article, the Turkish main opposition center- left party, the CHP, has not been doing much else than merely opposing the services brought about by the AK Party. People may click on a “like” button when they criticize the government on a social website, but if you don’t put forward a tangible policy study or a concrete political approach as an alternative, you cannot expect to be elected by the people. I took a close look at the reports and policy studies of Western think tanks about Turkey, and I realized that their sources are mainly left- wing oriented media or NGOs in Turkey; this would not be a problem if it were the case for the whole of the country. “Fixing the economy” is a very good line for many pundits when they are referring to Turkey; however, it becomes a very significant reality if you are living in Turkey and you have investments to support, debts to pay, and children’s school fees to think about. Over the last 11 years, the AK Party has created a new middle class in Turkey, and this new middle class has higher aspirations and is looking to enhance its potential by making new investments. They are taking out loans and assuming debt relying on the well -functioning engine of the economy. You simply cannot tell these people that you’re going to yank away the economical rug they are standing on without putting forward a viable and compelling alternative. You cannot, as a main opposition leader, stand in front of them and say, “Look! There are leaked tapes about these people, therefore you should vote for me.”
Why didn’t the Twitter or YouTube ban in Turkey affect the election results?
In the Turkish political scene, the electorate asks questions. Despite popular belief, the majority of the people don’t overreact and stop voting for a party because of a temporary ban on a social site. When they ask why the access to these sites has been banned, the answer they get makes it possible for them to stand beside the decision, unlike the one in the minds of the opposing elements. For example, the reason for the ban on YouTube tends to make people even more protective of the government because freedom of the media is one thing, but national security issues stand on a much higher pedestal than merely accessing what is, in the opinion of a good many Turks, simply a video sharing site of cats doing humorous things. For many people, the ban on Twitter can also be considered reasonable, since the motive behind the action is to cajole Twitter into treating the decisions of Turkish courts the same as they do of French, Spanish or British courts. This creates an understanding of national pride, therefore causing people to support the decision.
These are some of the reasons why the AK Party found itself the recipient of a landslide victory in the local elections, despite much heated discussion and opposition. In my next article, I will be explaining what the AK Party, the CHP and the MHP need to do to increase their votes in the upcoming general elections, scheduled for June 2015. We have seen once again from this experience that no matter how far we go with the virtual world of social websites, in real life, your desires need to comport to reality and they must have the potential to yield positive results. Since the opposition in Turkey did not have enough to offer as an alternative, the Turkish electorate decided to vote for the center-right once again.
Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak
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