Would an Economic Crisis Make a Government Fall? The Four Voter Profiles

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There is such an expectation among a significant portion of dissidents in Turkey, and even in the world. It is presumed that the economic crisis will make the government fall. The saying is, “AKP (Justice and Development Party, TN) came due to an economic crisis, and will go due to an economic crisis.” First, this is not the right comparison, and second, there is an error which we will call “automatism.”

Why is the comparison not correct? Because it overlooks the effect of the media. In 2001, the media had more freedom; points of views of people from different segments of the society, anti-government views in particular, would reach the mass broadcasting media. But today, there is very little media left outside the pool media (pro-government media, TN) and that can rarely reach broad masses. Even when they do reach broad masses, they reach their supporters. In 2001, there were media that could address every segment. The social media replaced it today, but everyone does not actually use it, and very few of the users use it to meet different ideas. The algorithms the social media companies explicitly or implicitly use get similar ideas closer, rather than bringing different ones together. Hence a central media which has the attributes of a platform no longer exists. Such kind of media would appeal to every segment like a groaning board. As long as the media is monopolized, the effect of the propaganda increases. Until you tell the one you speak to that the insights of an incident, there would already be a lot of false and misleading stories published.

The second problem, the automatism error, is closely related to the first point. People are not automats; they interpret what they experienced and act upon that interpretation. Because of this, social incidents do not cause automated results. When the happenings are viewed through the wrong lens of automatism, it is presumed that social, economic and political developments affect everyone directly and in the same way. As far there is the economic crisis, the supporters of the government are thought to change their sides. However, as we explained in an article on election campaigns, we need to talk about four different voter profiles instead of a single voter or citizen profile. These are the profiles of the economic citizen, psychological citizen, sociological citizen, and ideological citizen. How the economic crisis will affect their worlds of thought are directly related to what they attribute the crisis to (that is called attribution theory in social psychology). Now, let’s evaluate these four types of citizen profiles one by one:

The economic citizen/voter

The economic citizen (EC) gives her vote on economic reasons. She builds her partisanship to the party or to the government through the way she interprets the economic conditions. Some ECs put the blame for the economic crisis on the government, they point out to the cliff between the palace and the people. Some ECs, on the other hand, do not attribute the economic crisis to the government although they admit the presence of the crisis. According to them, either the outer powers are on action or those who do evil are the parasites between the producer and the consumer. They don’t get convinced that those parasites gained power because of the government. Moreover, according to them (those who are older or those who heard stories from their elders), there were gas queues in the CHP’s time, and the country got out of difficulties in the AKP era. However, they cannot relate the queues of the CHP era to the “Conqueror of Cyprus,” the “mujahid” Erbakan (Necmettin). Ecevit (Bülent) gave the order, but credit goes to Erbakan.* Moreover, they neglect the relation of those queues with the American embargo and the collaborative bourgeois. Third, they conceal the fact that the queues were aimed at providing cheap products and services to the people.

After 40 years, we see the EC in the onion queue. According to her, the regulatory retail points** are a grace, those who criticize them are traitorous and ungrateful people. “Why do they buy if they criticize,” right? They cannot see that this crisis is a collective result of the looting of the public goods on the level of municipalities and in other areas. They cannot see the cake to distribute to the partisan bourgeois is no more. According to them, the main problem is the outer powers. This view was one of the most important elements that kept Khomeini at power. There is a mindset like, “If there is hunger, that is not the government’s fault. Those who say it is are those who want to stir our country and make things worse.” Hence, the EC comprises two sub-profiles: The one that blames the government and the one that acquits the government.

The psychological citizen/voter

This citizen is usually bonded to the leader with unseverable ties. The basic variable here is the charisma. This profile can relate the economic crisis to the government. She can sharply criticize the party, AKP’s mayors, or deputies. According to this citizen, the whole problem caused by those who don’t do what the leader says. No leader like him has ever seen. If this leader moves to another party, the psychological citizen will move there too. We see Mansur Yavaş’s*** influence in Ankara. He changes parties but those who are bonded to him at heart don’t give up supporting him. Hereby, let’s add a little note for Ankara: While Ankara is the capital, its voter profile rather resembles rural voters (Ankara people, please don’t take offense). A classical saying is like, “Mansur Yavaş is Ankara’s boy, the other candidate is from Kayseri, what does he know about Ankara?” We don’t see such discourse, for example, in İstanbul. No one is saying, “But he is not from İstanbul, what does he know about İstanbul?”

The sociological citizen/voter

This profile tends to vote en masse. For example, she may say, “Everybody in our extended family votes for AKP,” or the exact opposite, “Our whole family voted for AKP, but we will not vote for them this time.” This profile is actually much more complicated than the first two ones. Because in a family, spouses or siblings can have different tendencies. Hence, taking the family as the basic unit in every example is not true. What really matters is the belonging. Belonging can be based on birthplace, workplace, neighborhood or age. What really matters is that the citizens are never disconnected individuals but are formally or informally organized. For instance, they are members of various associations or in informal relations such as family, kinship or friendship.

The ideological citizen/voter

The first three profiles are flexible and open to change. But the ideological citizen is deep-seated. It does not change unless there are radical developments. A person who says, “We vote for whom our party sees fit” when asked, “There is an economic crisis, you admit that too, but why do you still vote for the same candidate?” is the very example of the ideological citizen. This profile says she “never votes for CHP” or “never votes for AKP.” While the citizens of other profiles get affected by the economic crisis ideationally, this one does not get affected at all.

Looking at the citizens’ statements, how useful is this four-profile model can be seen. However, interpretations that totally excludes a profile may not be right. That is to say, a citizen can be an example of both ideological and economic profile. The subtype of the economic citizen who acquits the government is also an ideological citizen.

So, what do the citizens’ acts depend on? It depends on the influence centers, and the pool media is the leading influence center. Against the pool media, the opposition has social media, the scope of which is pretty narrow, and the influence that comes from various belongings, especially friendship. A struggle that is not equal in the beginning…

We also need to think about outer factors for our question in the introduction. Europe is afraid of a possible refugee crisis and a migration wave and does not want Turkey to collapse. For European foreign policy, our country has the role of a cushion against non-Europeans. Besides, Turkey not collapsing but not being strong either is the most suitable situation for all the outer powers.

Answer of the question

In conclusion, we don’t think that the economic crisis will make the government fall. Three reasons for that are the effect of the pool media, different voter types and outer effects. Even if these three reasons are invalid, the disarray of the opposition is a big obstacle for the fall of the government. And sometimes, outer factors can surpass inner factors. This also should not be forgotten.

*The Republican People’s Party (CHP), headed by Bülent Ecevit and the National Salvation Party (MSP), chaired by Necmettin Erbakan formed a coalition government in 1974. This government was in charge when Turkey entered the conflict in Cyprus in 1974. As a result of the war, the US imposed an arms embargo on Turkey. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also began his political life in the MSP and was an ally of Erbakan until he founded the AKP in 2001.

**To tackle rising food prices, AKP on February launched regulatory retail points, which sell fruits and vegetables cheaper. 

***Mansur Yavaş is a former Mayor of the Beypazarı District of capital Ankara. While he was a member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) during his mayorship in Beypazarı (1999-2009), he has been the CHP’s candidate for Ankara in 2014 and 2019 municipal elections.