Travelling between Kayseri and Konya in Central Anatolia, two so-called Anatolian Tigers and AKP strongholds, the great majority of citizens still backs the ruling party. The most often stated reasons are for stability and security.
Some would describe the situation in Turkey since the 7 June general elections as chaos, turmoil or a process of Middle Easternization. More than 700 dead, among them more than 160 security forces, several Kurdish cities had a curfew for more than a week. The Nur neighbourhood in Cizre was sealed off for a full eight days. In clashes with security forces, 21 civilians died, because they couldn’t get out of their houses, the dead were kept in freezers. And, two suicide bombers in Ankara killed 102 citizens.
Well, some say, others not: “Turkey is on the right track. For stability and security the best thing is an AKP absolute majority in the upcoming 1 November elections,” said an Islamic book shop owner in downtown Kayseri. Next door, a Kurdish dürüm (wrap) seller from Agri agreed. For him the pro-Kurdish HDP is a “Jewish-Armenian plot” and the other opposition is not capable of anything. A few steps further on, the jeweller who in the past sympathized with the Gülen or Hizmet movement also voiced his full support for the AKP: “Instability is not good for the economy, we need a strong, one-party government again.”
A four hour drive further South, in Konya, the situation is not much different. In the Konak Café in walking distance from the famous Mevlana Museum, a mixed group of Turkish and Kurdish men praise the AKP for their economic policy and political reforms. The café owner Erhan, originally from Silvan/Diyarbakir first said that “all politicians are liars”, but then also voiced support for the AKP: “Don’t worry, nobody but the AKP can win in Konya, now they have 11 out 14 MPs, don’t be surprised if they get 12 or 13.” His customers blame the opposition for the deadlock. “The votes, the AKP lost in June, will come back now”, said Ismail from Urfa.
Kayseri and Konya are by no means representative. Both are labelled Anatolian Tigers and both are the home towns of famous AKP politicians, Abdullah Gül is from Kayseri and Ahmet Davutoglu from Konya. However, one gets a clear picture about why the AKP is not losing its core voters. Issues, which are heavily criticized by the opposition and abroad like press freedom or police violence are only of minor importance there, if at all. And the AKP propaganda, broadcasted in a majority of mainstream TV channels and newspapers is also being believed by their voters. Even if there is no evidence of any PKK involvement in the Ankara bombings, the suicide bombers are identified as linked to IS and even the prosecutor stated that there is no PKK involvement, according to surveys 29 percent believe the PKK did it. Many of these nationwide 29 percent are in Kayseri and Konya. The jeweller in Kayseri was immediately sure: “This was like a scorpion that killed itself. They did it to drum up sympathy for their party.”
Additionally, in Kayseri and Konya, the overall dominance in local election campaign resources becomes more than evident. Visiting the AKP election office in Konya, a three storey building with around 100 party activists present, big and small buses in front, thousands of brochures, flowers, sweets and lollipops to hand out, one has sympathy with the opposition parties. The CHP and MHP have tiny offices, but no special election offices, the HDP does not have any offices.
Walking through the Sultan Selim neighbourhood with AKP Konya MP candidate Ahmet Sorgun who will definitely be elected in third place, one can clearly see the professionalism of the AKP organization, it is apowerful machine. In the neighbourhood, Sorgun is accompanied by a big bus and a small bus, around 10 male and 30 female activists who hand out flowers, brochures and sweets. Sorgun kisses kids, hugs men and gives flowers to women.
Veteran local journalist Recep Bulut, owner of the Yeni Haber newspaper commented on the discrepancy in resources: “If the CHP tries to visit a neighbourhood or small town in the vicinity they either don’t have a car or if they have a car they don’t have fuel.” Bulut is the owner of the only independent local newspaper, one local paper is with the MHP and around 15 are owned by AKP-affiliates. In TV, the picture is the same. Out of nine local stations, only one is open for the opposition. “The one station that still invites us is threatened by the AKP and offered money not to have us talk. Even if we offer money to participate in programs of the other channels, they won’t invite us,” complained the CHP MP candidate Cetin Arik in Kayseri. Arik also gave an example of the current climate of fear in the city: “Some police wanted to talk to us and voice their criticism, but they didn’t dare to come to our office. So we met them in a café, they were wearing hats and sunglasses so as not to be identified.”
Worst of all is the situation for the pro-Kurdish and leftist HDP in these cities. Because of the Ankara bombings and continuous attacks on offices, they decided not to have election offices, nor open stands, nor to have any public meetings. The only kind of campaign which is possible, are door-to-door visits and marriages: “We attended around 20 Kurdish marriages, they turned into HDP political rallies,” said Sultan Günes Özcan, HDP’s number one candidate in Kayseri.
Despite this Central Anatolian picture of total AKP dominance, it is most likely that on 1 November the 7 June election result will be by and large repeated and no party will gain an absolute majority. Then, a third election as stated by AKP’s former minister Sahin would be difficult to sell even to the AKP core voters. A coalition government, one of the most normal things in parliamentary democracies, would finally be formed, either AKP-CHP or AKP-MHP. Then, maybe also Kayseri and Konya will find again the desired stability and security.
* The election trip was organized by the independent media platform P24 (http://platform24.org/en/) . Special thanks to Özcan Sert for organizing the meetings.
Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere is a political analyst and journalist based in Istanbul – for more information see his website