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Identity Dynamics of the June and November 2015 Elections of Turkey: Kurds, Alevis and Conservative Nationalists

Identity politics was one of the major dynamics in shaping the results of both the June 7 and November 1, 2015 general elections in Turkey. The parties that were affiliated with Kurdish and Turkish ethno-nationalism, the HDP and the MHP, increased their votes significantly in the June 7 elections. The AK Party was able to pull some of those votes back in November elections. The HDP tried to transform itself from being a regional or ethnic Kurdish party into a national party relevant to all of Turkey. The PKK’s goal of becoming an influential regional actor in the Middle East hindered the HDP’s goal, thus leading to a decline of HDP votes in November elections. CHP remained as the favorite party of Alevi voters by a wide margin despite some challenge from HDP.

Identity Dynamics of the June and November 2015 Elections of
President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, hosts a dinner to celebrate the occasion of Muharrem (Muharrem Aşı) in Mabeyin Mansion with leading Alevi figures. AA PHOTO / YASİN BÜLBÜL
 

Most analysts of Turkish politics agree that “identity politics” was a major dynamic in shaping the results of both the June 7 and November 1, 2015 general elections in Turkey. The political stalemate in the aftermath of the June 7 elections was also attributed to the significant impact of the identity politics on the outcome.1 Economy, public policy issues and Turkey’s turbulent foreign policy, as well as debates on switching to a presidential system from a parliamentary one, were important themes discussed in the pre-election campaign. Identity related positions of the competing parties played a significant role in shaping the preferences of the electorate. The electorate is fragmented into four main identity lines in Turkey: Turkish and Kurdish nationalists, secular left and conservative/Islamist. In the November elections the deadlock, attributed to the use of identity politics, was surpassed2 yet the legacy of this ideology seems set to be a major issue in the coming years. This study examines the effect identity politics had on the June and November 2015 general elections in Turkey.

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