As President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly urges the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to embrace radical changes and refresh its organizational structure ahead of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, the party’s central executive board has revealed complaints from AKP voters over “money and power-driven local branches.”
“Change is a natural phenomenon for the AKP, which was founded to meet the demand for change in Turkey,” Erdoğan said at an event marking the 16th anniversary of the party in Ankara’s Sincan district on Aug. 14.
He added that the party had gone through a number of changes since its foundation on all of its levels, but this time it needs “much more radical changes.”
“For Turkey’s stability, the reputation of the state and the happiness of the people, we have aimed for 50 percent [of the vote]. We actually set this aim exactly 16 years ago. Now, for the 2019 elections, we have to add only one voter to this goal, meaning 50 percent plus one,” Erdoğan said, calling on party members to “go from door to door” to push votes above 50 percent.
He noted that reshuffling of the AKP’s cadres would be completed by February 2018.
“This is a new process. The changing of duties is absolutely natural in this service path, which we see as a relay race,” he said, adding that the party currently has 11 million members but aims to “double” this number by 2019.
Polls voice voter complaints
President Erdoğan’s emphasis on the change in party organization follows research conducted by a commission working on the results of the April 16 referendum.
The “Political Analysis Commission” detailed its report to the AKP’s Central Executive Board ahead of the 16th anniversary celebrations on Aug. 14.
The report found that citizens’ opinion about AKP local organizations and municipalities had an influence on the lack of enthusiasm for the “Yes” side during the April 2017 referendum on shifting to a presidential system, which only narrowly won with 51.4 percent of the vote amid opposition objections.
Research reportedly showed that many citizens complained about unemployment, inadequate services and favoritism, while many prefer more modest services that would have an immediate effect on their lives rather than large showcase projects.
The report stated that the party had drifted away from its founding motto and local AKP politicians had started to form “professional relations” based on money and power, rather than “warm relationships, as in the early days.”
AKP voters who said ‘No’ in the referendum
The ruling party officials also discussed AKP base’s voting behavior in the constitutional referendum, finding that the percentage of AKP voters who voted against the constitutional amendment ranged from 4 percent to 12 percent according to region.
In the Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean regions, the number of AKP voters who voted against the amendment was higher than the number of AKP voters who said “No” elsewhere.
The biggest reason for this drift was determined to be “distrust of the presidential system,” but the research also indicated that despite concerns the AKP base would again vote for the party in the upcoming elections.
In order to achieve 51 percent of the vote in the 2019 elections, changes in the party organization will focus on addressing persistent complaints. In order to do that, Erdoğan has reportedly instructed new researchers to determine voters’ priorities in upcoming surveys.