Academic journal article European Research Studies

Ten Million New Turkish Voters in 2011: Where They Come from? How They Voted? What It Means for the Future?

Academic journal article European Research Studies

Ten Million New Turkish Voters in 2011: Where They Come from? How They Voted? What It Means for the Future?

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Number of registered voters increased by 10.2 million, or 24 percent, between the 22 July 2007 and 12 June 2011 Turkish parliamentary elections. Almost one out of every five voters who cast a valid vote in 2011 was a new voter. Beside population increase, the switch to a system of automatic registration of all citizens eligible to vote was responsible for this. Still it raised eyebrows and made many to wonder whether an impropriety was involved, as the rise was a multiple times the corresponding increase between 3 November 2002 and 22 July 2007 parliamentary elections, which was only 1.3 million, or 3 percent. Why the change in the electorate was so high between the last two elections is one of the questions that need to be addressed to understand the outcome of the 2011 election and to predict future ones. Whether the participation rate changed after involuntary registration of so many people, whether the demographic and socio-economic make- up of the new voters, their geographical distribution, and their political leanings were similar to the rest of the electorate, are some others.

The voters up for grabs in the last election were not limited only to the new voters. In addition, 1.1 million people who supported the Young Party (GP) in 2007 had to make another choice in 2011 when their party did not enter the election and disappeared from the political scene. Furthermore, about 1.6 million of the 1.9 million people who supported the Democrat Party (DP) in 2007 deserted the party in 2011.2 Collectively, these constituted more than 6 percent of the valid votes cast in 2011. Understanding where they ended up is quite important also.

Although a number of recent studies analyzed the outcome of the 2011 election, such as Akarca (2011a, 2011b and 2011c), Aslan-Akman (2012), Balkan and Guney (2012), Carkoglu (2011 and 2012), Cinar (2011), Kubicek (2011), and Tezcur (2012), only the last one of these dealt with the issue of the new voters. Tezcur drew attention to the fact that in the south-eastern provinces the growth rate of the electorate was far more than the growth rate of the population and suggested correctly that this has worked against the incumbent party and in favour of the Kurdish nationalists. However, he did not go beyond that. None of the studies listed addressed how the former DP and GP voters were shared between the remaining parties and how the new voters in other areas voted.

The main purpose of the present study is to shed more light on the questions posed above. This will be done in section 2 with the aid of descriptive statistics. Then in section 3, through rigorous econometric methods, how the new votes cast in 2011 and votes cast by former supporters of the DP and GP were distributed among the major parties, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Democratic Left Party (DSP), Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) will be studied. (3) Finally in the last section, conclusions reached will be discussed. Our analysis will be based on data at the national, regional and provincial levels. Another purpose of our study is to show how macro data can provide an alternative to micro data in answering the questions mentioned.

2. Source of New Voters

Those who reached voting age in 2011 (14 to 17 years olds at the time of the 2007 election), made up a large portion of the increase in registered voters. However another reason for the increase was the switch in 2008 to a system of automatic registration of all citizens eligible to vote without any effort on their part. (4) Consequently, many people who usually do not or cannot participate in the political process got registered. Of them, 2.4 million were citizens residing abroad. Until now, such persons are allowed to vote only in parliamentary elections and only if they happen to enter or exit Turkey during one-month period preceding the election. …

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