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Turkey: 'voters didn't vote to punish government over corruption allegations'

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Turkey: 'voters didn't vote to punish government over corruption allegations'
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Despite mass anti-government protests last year, accusations of authoritarianism and corruption, and the banning of some social media sites, Recep Tayyip Erdogan came up smelling of roses in Turkey’s local elections.

The papers proclaimed the results as a vote of confidence after what was seen as a test of popularity in the prime minister and his government.

Erdogan’s AK (Justice and Development) party came way ahead of its main rival.

The lack of a united opposition no doubt played into his hands, but the prime minister also drew on widespread support from the working class and religious groups. In the end, their votes outnumbered those of his critics among the secular elite.

Erdogan praised supporters for standing up for Turkey’s ideals, and vowed revenge on his enemies over their accusations.

Euronews’ Turkish correspondent Bora Bayraktar interviewed analyst Bekir Ağırdır about the results and began by asking him what he made of the AK party’s victory.

Bekir Ağırdır, Konda Research and Consultancy:
There are a few reasons why the AK Party won. Some are technical. In 30 big cities, new districts have been created. This affected 77 % of the constituencies.

In Turkey migration is increasing – 27 million people migrated over the last 30 years. I am telling you this because the data that we know about Turkish society before the 1980s, data about the industrial and sociological structure data has changed.

This is the thing that the Turkish political elite, Turkish universities and the media don’t notice or don’t take into consideration. The nature of Turkish society has changed with this migration and metropolisation. There is also a global change, as society moves from being an industrial one to an information-based society which affects daily life in Turkey. They are always surprised by the election results but there is nothing surprising about them.

It is also not only about the success of the ruling party but the failure of the opposition. Erdogan succeeded in turning this election into a referendum and the opposition walked into this trap. They only talked about corruption.

euronews:
Have the bans on twitter,and youtube, and the Gezi incidents played a role in these elections?

Bekir Ağırdır:
Yes they have and do. During the Gezi incidents the AK Party lost five points immediately according our surveys. But within two months they took it back. During the corruption probe they lost 5 to 6 points then got them back in February. In March it dropped again. If these things hadn’t happened, the AK Party would have got 52, 53 per cent. So they lost a little bit.

The election results don’t mean that corruption is ignored or tolerated. Corruption is about the law. The polls are about politics. But it seems that Mr. Erdogan and his AK Party will make this mistake and interpret the results as though all the allegations have gone away and people don’t care. But both the Ak Party and the opposition are wrong about this. People did not vote to punish the government over the corruption allegations yesterday. People voted for their capacity to rule the country. The main determining factor in how they voted was political polarisation and allegiance.

If this political polarisation persists, the AK party will win every election. These elections showed this again.

euronews:
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) won many cities in the Kurdish dominated areas. How do you evaluate their success?

Bekir Ağırdır:
I think that in local government the BDP has become the main opposition. Whether you like them or not, they provide an alternative vision to their constituency. They won all the seats where the Kurdish population is organised and in the majority. So due to the number of the cities that they won and also their alternative vision they have become the main opposition.