Thus far, nearly all presidential elections in Turkey have caused political crises. The candidacy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the presidential race is a likely possibility. Abdullah Gül, the president, can also run for the post a second time, made clear by a ruling of the Constitutional Court in August. Gül having a second chance to run for the presidency is bound to have a strong influence on Turkish politics.
Sixty percent of the respondents said they wanted Gül to run again, while 33 percent said they were against his candidacy. In response to the question “Who should be the president in 2014?” 21 percent said Gül while 18 percent responded Erdoğan. The researchers noted the discrepancy between the percentage of those who support Gül’s candidacy (60 percent) and those who will actually vote for him (21 percent) indicates that some segments in society see Gül as a candidate who might balance out Erdoğan, and will vote tactically for another candidate. This is further confirmed by responses from respondents who traditionally vote for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to the question of who they would choose if they had to choose between Erdoğan and Gül. Only 5 percent said they would prefer Erdoğan while 48 percent responded Gül.
At any rate, the survey has made it clear that the presidential race will mainly take place between Gül and Erdoğan. However, the researchers added, “This possibility [of having both Gül and Erdoğan as candidates] is diminished by the fact that both candidates are based on the AK Party parliamentary group and the party’s voter base.”
However, the question “Who would you choose if you had to choose between Abdullah Gül and [Recep] Tayyip Erdoğan?” was still included in the survey. Fifty-one percent responded Gül to this question, with those choosing Erdoğan at 23 percent.
Fifty-eight percent of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters responded Gül to the same question, with 7 percent saying they would vote for Erdoğan. Fifty-two percent of AK Party voters also preferred Gül over Erdoğan, while 39 percent said they would like to see Erdoğan as president. The researchers noted that this was a difficult choice to understand, given the charismatic power Erdoğan wields over the party and the voters. The researchers concluded that respect for Gül among the party’s voter base and satisfaction with his performance in the presidential office are the factors behind the majority supporting Gül’s presidency. Another concern might be, the researchers argued, the situation of the AK Party, which will lose Erdoğan’s leadership if he is elected president. They also speculated that the general perception that the presidency represents “the state,” while the prime ministry represents “the people,” might also have played a role in the tendency of more AK Party voters to favor Gül’s presidency over Erdoğan.
Perceptions about military
The survey found strong resentment against the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) due to the lack of transparency this institution has displaced. Fifty-nine percent of the respondents said they were not convinced that the bombing of 34 civilians in the Southeast, the downing of a Turkish jet in Syria and an arsenal depot explosion in Afyon that killed 25 soldiers were investigated thoroughly by the TSK. Only 25 percent said they were satisfied with the military’s follow-up on these three tragedies.
Work on the new constitution
Ahead of the 2011 general elections, all political parties and candidates promised voters that a new and more democratic constitution would be drafted and then adopted. Work on drafting the text of the new constitution has been slow, but the MetroPOLL survey found that 56 percent of voters are still hopeful about the adoption of a new constitution for Turkey, which should be understood, according to the researchers, as a demand from the people. Only 26 percent said they did not believe the current Parliament would be able to pass a new constitution.