13 June 2012by Audrey Stevens, Contributor
Ýbrahim Uslu, manager of ANAR (Ankara Social Researches Center) suggests the Turkish public is “ready to support” Erdoðan in any policy stance, in a recent interview with Hürriyet Daily News. Importantly, Uslu suggests that –regardless of whether Erdoðan presents himself, current president Abdullah Gül, or another official as a potential presidential candidate –Erdoðan’s support will translate into electoral success.
According to Uslu, the current policy disputes over optimal foreign policy and the proposed abortion ban do not sabotage the widespread electoral support of the AKP. He maintains the AKP will continue to enjoy widespread support from the electorate, despite growing questions on Turkey’s relationship and responsibilities to Syria, Turkish-Iraqi relations, and the domestic debate on abortion.
A developing debate, the potential effects of the abortion debate on future elections are still not clear. While ANAR manager Uslu feels it is still very early to speculate on the side effects of the abortion debate on the polls, he highlights the prevalence of women among AKP voters, who make up 55 percent of total past votes for the party. According to ANAR, more than fifty percent of women voted for the AKP in last year’s elections. With women’s health issued pulled into the spotlight with questions of abortion regulation, such prevalent support by women for the AKP may falter. A recent Konsensus Research Centre study revealed that 55.5 percent of Turks oppose the abortion ban, challenging the purportedly minimal effect the abortion debate may have on future elections.
Beyond questions of women’s rights, Uslu emphasized “the AKP’s foreign policy success, position and rhetoric” in his Hürriyet interview, claiming foreign policy will continue to bolster AKP support in future elections, downplaying the potential for deteriorating conditions in Syria or foreign policy strains with Iraq to have a significant impact on future elections.
Future elections will also face new technical aspects, as the Constitutional Court recently published that “the right to vote is a constitutional right that should be respected… overseas” in the Official Gazette, facilitating voting for Turkish citizens living abroad. Amending the Law on the General Principles of Elections and Electoral Register to include overseas –but not postal –voting, the new regulations will take effect in 2013 and in time for the anticipated presidential election the following year. Following years of inquiry into the constitutionality of overseas voting, this ruling allows (approximately 2.5 million) overseas Turks to vote, potentially bolstering AKP votes. This change would allow Turkish citizens, including the significant populations in Germany and other parts of Europe, to participate in Turkish elections, as championed by the AKP for some years.
At the same time, Turkish officials have translated the experiment in external voting into a chance to cultivate closer relations with countries like Egypt, which have had experience in overseas elections. Turkish election officials looked to Egypt for practical advice in carrying out these new voting regulations, according to Egyptian Ambassador Abderahman Salaheldin.
Facing new election logistics, increasingly strained foreign policy, and an expanding debate of abortion policies in future election, Ýbrahim Uslu highlights the AKP’s widespread support and predicts future successes. As he said his recent interview, “As for the AK Party, it is one thing to say it will lose votes, it something else to say it will disappear.”