ISTANBUL — Why did those who gave 60% of the vote to opposition parties in the June 7 parliamentary elections turn to the ruling AKP on Sunday? The message to the various forces of the opposition was clear: "You couldn't find a ruling coalition with 60% of the vote. You made a mess of the country. Now you pay."
Too many people who were overwhelmed by the fear that "no government can be founded, everything is going to get worse, an atmosphere of chaos has formed" went to the AKP of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The party got more than 49% of the vote and will now have an absolute majority to again control the parliament.
The nationalist rhetoric of the AKP convinced voters who had lost faith in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) being able to be part of a ruling coalition. So MHP votes went to the AKP.
At the same time, AKP's subtle religious campaign worked effectively; thus, many of the votes received in June by the far right Felicity Party (SP) and the Great Union Party (BBP) alliance also to the AKP on Sunday.
Meanwhile, following the June elections, the illegal Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) started a campaign of violence — and the legal pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) failed to object to this violence in a clear and sharp way. As a consequence, some Kurdish votes went to AKP as well.
There was another more general explanation for the surprising results: The opposition was extremely lazy, while the AKP was extremely active. Davutoglu worked busy as a bee; Devlet Bahceli (MHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu (CHP) and Selahattin DemirtaÅŸ (HDP) were far less visible.
Below the radar
President Erdogan, instead, did not participate in political rallies this time. He did not repeat his demand for "400 parliamentary deputies" or return to a debate on the "presidential system." The AKP benefited from this more low-key approach from the head of state.
People who do not want to lose their jobs, worry about the economy getting worse, troubled by the dollar rising against the lira went after that ever powerful and mystical concept of "stability."
The AKP ran its gigantic propaganda machine flawlessly, taking full and efficient advantage of the public tools that are available to the party in power.
Still, we must confess, nobody expected this result. Not even Davutoglu, nor Erdogan, nor the AKP faithful. Not the polling companies, nor the media, nor the Turkish people. Reaching 44% was the best anyone thought the party could achieve, maybe squeaking by with just enough seats to form a single-party government, or more likley having to compromise with another smaller party or two to form a coaltion.
Nobody expected they would obtain practically half the vote.
What can happen now? We may expect the presidential system debate to resurface. Davutoglu will continue his career as a more confident leader. Winds of change or internal strife can be expected among the opposition parties.
My approach is radical: I say MHP leader Devlet Bahceli should resign, saying "I have failed." CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu should resign, saying "I cannot increase the votes of my party." HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag should publicly question their own stewardship, and leave if necessary.
In short, those who can lead must lead — those who cannot must go.