Academic journal article Insight Turkey

A Quantitative Analysis of Turkey's 2011 Elections

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

A Quantitative Analysis of Turkey's 2011 Elections

Article excerpt

The political transformation Turkey experienced in the last decade was quite dramatic. This transformation took place on various fronts and in different forms. For instance, the parties represented in the Turkish parliament of 1999 were all ousted in the 2002 elections. Since 2002, there has been a single-party government with relatively successful governance on almost all fronts, including the economy, foreign affairs, and infrastructure development. And, what is more surprising and striking is that this single political party, AKP (Justice and Development Party), has been increasing its votes in every election it entered since its inception in 2002, including the very recent parlimentary elections on June 12, 2011. Furthermore, liberalizing changes in the constitution and laws regarding, for example, the role of the military, and public perception in and outside of Turkey are seen as only the beginnings of Turkey's fundamental changes in the areas of freedom, entreprenuership, innovation, public services, and advancements in all aspects of modern life. For the first time since its establishment in 1923, the citizens of the Republic of Turkey feel a diminishing grip of the army in their life. As a consequence of the 2011 Elections, which resulted in a large (95%) representation of all types of voters in the parliment, it is now possible to envision that a new, democratic, and civilian constitution can be formulated by the people for the people.

In this paper, first, a quantitative analysis of the 2011 elections are compared to the results of the previous elections in 1999, 2007, and 2009. The cluster analysis method is followed by an examination of significant changes (swings) in the voting trends of different regions and some provinces. Then, a future-based qualitative outlook analysis is presented to indicate what the results would be under possible changes in the law for political parties, national threshold, and an eventual new constitution.

Cluster Analysis of the 2011 Elections

Despite a significant transformation in the political arena in Turkey since 2002, the results of the 2011 elections were not surprising, as it was widely predicted that AKP would lead the race by obtaining 40-50% of the votes. Perhaps, only the MHP's (National Movement Party, the party that has historically headed the Turkish nationalist front) performance was unexpected, because its electoral gain was not predicted by the political pundits. In fact, it obtained about 13% of the votes, comfortably passing the national threshold of 10%. A study by Akarca and Baslevent revealed that the groupings of Turkish provinces in terms of voting preferences via the so-called "k-means clustering algorithm" remained mainly unchanged since 1999 (2). Similar conclusions can be drawn from another but more comprehensive study which found that voting tendencies of cluster of provinces, or sub-regions, did not change significantly since the first democtratic elections in 1950 when main political tendencies, not specific parties, are taken into account (i.e., center right, center left, Turkish nationalist, and recently Kurdish nationalist) (3).

The "k-means clustering algorithm" is employed in situations where the goal is to group (i.e., cluster) similar units in a population by taking a pre-determined number of features into account. In this specific case, the authors considered the 1999, 2002, and 2007 parliament elections as well as the 2004 and 2009 local elections and they used the vote shares of major political parties in addition to the independent candidates as the feature data used in clustering. The methodology of their study entails execution of the clustering algorithm with k=5, that is, the provinces are clustered into 5 groups. Observing that only a few of the provinces changed clusters over the five elections considered, the authors introduce the concept of "composite clusters" to obtain a summative picture of Turkey's political landscape over the last decade. …

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