The Nation Alliance’s Oversight: Exploring the Neglected Middle Turkey in Turkish Politics

Gulay Icoz |

A couple of weeks ago, Turkey held its second run-off for the presidential election, which resulted in Erdogan’s victory and the opposition’s defeat. This outcome was reminiscent of the night following the UK’s Brexit vote, where the margin was also close at 52:48.

Several factors may have contributed to the opposition’s loss in the Turkish presidential elections. Firstly, Erdogan effectively manipulated the media, exerting control over the dissemination of information. His camp utilized various means to spread disinformation, further influencing public opinion. Additionally, the opposition’s choice of candidate for the presidency may not have resonated effectively with voters.

Furthermore, there was a prevalence of strongman romanticism among sections of the population, which favoured Erdogan’s leadership style. The opposition also faced challenges due to the support it received from the Kurdish community, which may have polarized the population to some extent.

Moreover, nationalist instincts played a significant role in shaping the outcome of the election, as a substantial portion of the population identified strongly with Turkish nationalism. Overall, a combination of media manipulation, disinformation, candidate selection, strongman appeal, Kurdish support, polarization, nationalist sentiments, and poverty may have contributed to the opposition’s defeat in the Turkish presidential election.

One important aspect I’d like to delve into is the voting patterns within the Nation Alliance and whether the opposition was attuned to the concerns of middle Turkey. In this context, I draw inspiration from the term “Middle England” to describe middle Turkey, which represents a specific socio-political demographic residing outside major urban areas like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Adana. Middle Turkey encompasses social groups and communities that share traditional values and prioritize key issues like territorial integrity, unity, love for the nation-state, national sovereignty, and partly economic well-being. This segment is often seen as a crucial battleground constituency with significant influence over electoral outcomes. Moreover, the term “Middle England” has been employed to depict a perceived cultural and social identity that places value on stability, pragmatism, and a sense of national identity.Seçim haritası 2023: 14 Mayıs Cumhurbaşkanı seçim sonuçlarında son durum ne, adaylar ve ittifaklar hangi illerde kazandı? - 3

The election results indicate a lack of attraction between the Nation Alliance and middle Turkey, as well as a failure on the part of the Nation Alliance to actively engage with this significant portion of the electorate. Throughout the election campaign, both sides operated independently, with no apparent effort made by the Nation Alliance to bridge the gap and address the concerns of middle Turkey. The disconnect between the Nation Alliance and middle Turkey went unnoticed, resulting in a missed opportunity to connect with this large population of voters.

The opposition parties should take heed of this lesson for the upcoming Local Elections next year.

Here are a few recommendations until then:

  • Conduct a thorough analysis and mapping of the Middle Turkey region.
  • Identify the residents living in this area.
  • Determine the key issues that matter most to this demographic.
  • Develop a clear party agenda and policies that address these concerns.
  • Organize citizen assemblies to engage with the electorate, listen to their worries, and present viable solutions.
  • Create customized manifestos and actively engage with voters by door-to-door campaigning, effectively communicating the party’s pledges.

If the opposition parties commit to focusing on those who did not vote for them in the Presidential elections and genuinely demonstrate a keen interest in understanding and addressing the needs of middle Turkey, they have the potential to make significant progress and win the hearts and minds of this particular segment of the population.