ANKARA: AK Party’s Flag Posters Attract Votes, Survey Shows

Erdal Þen

Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Feb 20 2007

The Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) poster plastered on
billboards during the Feast of the Sacrifice (Kurban Bayram) holiday
increased their votes by 5.3 percent.

Across the controversial poster of Prime Minister Erdoðan and
the Turkish flag was written "Kurban olam," ("I sacrifice myself"
[for your star and crescent]). The poster was regarded as a bid for
nationalist votes and was debated for some time. Professor Orhan
Gokce of Selcuk University, chairman of the public administration
department, along with his working group surveyed 7,325 people to
determine the effect of the poster on the AK Party’s percentage of
the vote. According to the survery, potential votes for the the AK
Party have increased from 26 to 31.3 percent.

Recent events have prompted reactionary opinions among the Turkish
public, Professor Gokce said, noting that the poster was a response
to the impressions the public held of the the AK Party. "Despite
wide-ranging support for Erdoðan, some people fear that the AK
Party cannot adequately represent the interests of the public,"
Gokce said, adding: "It looked like the the AK Party government
couldn’t shake off these impressions. I am speaking about the image
that had been formed. The flag campaign was perceived by the public
as a representation of the state response of Erdoðan. Posters and
photos can support or refute struggles and efforts. That’s why this
poster was seen as Erdoðan’s effort to claim this government and as
act of state response. In response to criticism it seems like Erdoðan
was trying to say, ‘ I stand by this government. We are part of this
government. Like every other citizen, I am trying to protect my people
and government. I swear I will protect it.’ Since this was how most
people perceived the campaign, the AK Party votes increased from 26
to31 percent."

However, Gokce believes the percentage of votes could change again.

Unlike before, voters are polarizing. "We believe that polarization
will be an important factor in the 2007 elections. We are seeing this
in the increase and decrease of party votes. Although the political
parties have not yet begun their campaigns, we see some parties’
with increasing vote rates and others with decreasing vote rates,"
Gokce said in response to the ambiguity over ideologies.

Referring to the different understandings of nationalism, Gokce said
that in many parts of Turkey there are moderate conservatives as well
as nationalists. Over the course of four-and-a-half years Turkey has
experienced many events, especially the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the
US and the Armenian allegations of genocide. These issues have made
the Turkish public nervous and more sensitive to issues of the nation
and state.

According to Gokce, there has also been an increase in the number of
people who say they are attached to national and spiritual values.

"People used to say ‘I am leftist or Islamic or nationalist’ in the
past. There are some who still use these expressions, but much less
today. The percentage of people who say they are both nationalist
and religious has increased from 25 to 50 percent," Gokce stated.


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