Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is playing towards nationalist votes in the second round of elections. He wants to add Sinan Oğan’s votes from the first round to his own. We cannot ignore the common perception that this strategy is without an alternative. However, there are significant calculation errors here, and it will be impossible to compensate for these mistakes.
First and foremost, it would be beneficial to remind Kılıçdaroğlu about the Kurdish votes. The Kurdish votes he received in the first round brought Kılıçdaroğlu to the forty percent range. It is not difficult to predict how the Kurds, who have been reduced to a marginal discourse, will react. Of course, a significant portion of the Kurds will support Kılıçdaroğlu. This is because we are dealing with a politicized and organized movement. Even the release of Selahattin Demirtaş and imprisoned Kurdish deputies alone provides a rational basis for the Kurdish votes to turn towards Kılıçdaroğlu. I do not deny this. However, it is certain that a part of the Kurds will be much less motivated in the second round compared to the first round. In other words, Kılıçdaroğlu’s attempt to appeal to Ülkücü (In Turkish context, Ülkü means “ideal” and mostly used for the Turkish nationalists under the umberalla of MHP, Nationalist Movement Party) Oğan and his base is a zero-sum situation. The more Kılıçdaroğlu succumbs to Turkish nationalist rhetoric, the more Kurdish votes he will lose. In other words, while filling one side of the pool, cracks and fractures will emerge on the other side.
Another point is that regardless of what happens, the voters who trust Oğan will not automatically turn towards Kılıçdaroğlu just because he has toughened his rhetoric. Even if Kılıçdaroğlu tries to please everyone, he cannot gain the support of Oğan’s voters. At least there will not be a significant shift in voting that can change the fate of the election. Oğan’s supporters are likely to either vote for Erdoğan or not participate in the election. This situation, on paper, benefits Erdoğan, who has a higher vote percentage. Kılıçdaroğlu will end up only hardening his rhetoric unnecessarily.
In fact, much more accurate strategies could have been developed. It would have been a much more correct tactic to try to reach the approximately fifteen percent of non-voting voters. The dominant group of disgruntled voters is not the AKP or MHP base, but rather the left-secular inclined voters. If this group decides to go to the polls at a rate of five to six percent, the balance could change.
Another important issue to consider in this analysis is the irregularities in the vote count. It is a well-known fact that the elections were manipulated behind the scenes, and that Erdoğan obtained the declared vote percentage through this means. Now, it is clear that Kılıçdaroğlu’s team, as well as many literate opposition figures, have accepted that Erdoğan truly obtained a vote percentage of 49.52%. This was already the most serious strategic mistake and made the regime’s job much easier. However, what should have been done was to strongly emphasize the claim that election fraud occurred, even if this vote percentage was legally accepted. Furthermore, it would have been to gather masses in front of the Supreme Election Council (YSK) to create pressure and hold democracy vigils.
On the night that connected May 14th to May 15th, CHP’s data suddenly disappeared from the system. However, based on signed documents, it appeared that Kılıçdaroğlu was receiving around 48-49% of the votes. Then, somehow, AA’s data was suddenly accepted. This transition created a controversy that will be talked about for years. The earthquake caused by this led to Kılıçdaroğlu punishing those responsible with a sudden decision.
What is more dramatic in this situation is not what the regime did, but what the opposition failed to do or didn’t do.
Now, there is no guarantee that this will not be repeated.
It is certain that the regime will do the same thing in accordance with its playbook. They will cheat again. They have a highly experienced team and they will use their control over the Ministry of Interior, the police, intelligence agencies, their media power, unlawful environments, the Supreme Election Council (YSK), and the Anadolu Agency (AA). And they will do it until the end!
What is even more important is that Erdoğan has gained psychological superiority. Kılıçdaroğlu started to dance to Erdoğan’s tune. Erdoğan disrupted Kılıçdaroğlu’s balance and completely changed his election campaign. He abandoned the gentle and fatherly dialogue he had with the people and pulled Kılıçdaroğlu into his own domain of dirty politics. If we use a chess term, Erdoğan ended Kılıçdaroğlu’s move advantage. He completely nullified the victorious momentum Kılıçdaroğlu had captured.
Another important point is that Erdoğan intentionally chose not to manipulate the election with a marginal margin and instead allowed it to go to the second round. The purpose of this was to increase the point difference between him and Kılıçdaroğlu and present an image to the world that democracy was functioning in Turkey. And he succeeded in doing so. Many international media outlets fell for this trick. Furthermore, the opposition did not object to it. We are once again hearing the term “Turkish democracy” frequently. However, the truth is that Turkey is very close to an absolute authoritarian regime and the fact that the electoral procedure takes place is not solely an indicator of democracy. As I have emphasized in my numerous writings before, the elections did not take place in a fair and free environment. Moreover, as I have repeatedly written, serious operations were conducted behind closed doors. One of the indications of this is Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu’s statement before the elections that Erdoğan would receive around 49.5% of the votes and the election would go to the second round.
The game is in favor of Erdoğan.
Editor’s note: This article published first in Turkish at TR724.com, a day before Mr. Sinan Ogan announced his support for Erdogan.