Sunday the 28th of May, 2023, Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was re-elected to serve another five year term after a run-off victory. This victory was surprising because ahead of the first round elections on the 14th of May, 2023, all local and international opinion polls predicted a first round defeat for him. The opinion polls predicted a first round victory for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
The economy of Turkey was not favourable for Erdogan and his Justice and Freedom Party (AKP). Inflation was almost 90% as at October 2022. It came down to 43.68% by April 2023. Unemployment was 10% nationwide with 19.2% of youth under the age of 24 unemployed. Data from the World Bank and Turkey’s Central Bank indicated that the Turkish Lira has lost about 90% of its value to the US Dollar.
Aside the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Turkey hard and millions of refugees from Syria were also an albatross around the neck of the Erdogan government. The worse of them was the deadly February Turkey-Syria earthquake which left over 50, 000 people dead. The Erdogan government was severely criticized for its slow response to the earthquake and poor handling of the whole situation.
Despite these daunting challenges and unfavorable opinion polls, president Erdogan and his AKP won the first round with 49.5% as against Kemal Kilicdaroglu CHP which had 44.9%. The Ancestral Alliance of Sinan Ogan also had 5.2%. The first round 5% margin of victory of Erdogan shocked all pollsters. Of the 600 parliamentary seats, Erdogan AKP alone won 268 as against 169 for the main opposition CHP. The alliance of parties that supported Erdogan gave the AKP 323 seats as against 212 for the CHP alliance. This is a clear and resounding parliamentary victory which hugely impacted on the presidential results. The second round of elections favoured the ruling party because of its parliamentary majority.
Ahead of the run-off elections on 28th May, 2023, the Ancestral Alliance of Sinan Ogan declared their support for Erdogan and the AKP with the reason that they (Ancestral Alliance) cannot support a political party/alliance which had a parliamentary minority. They pitched their support for Erdogan due to the parliamentary majority of the AKP. With the support of the Ancestral Alliance, Erdogan and the AKP won the run-off with 52.11% as against the CHP which had 47.89%.
Clearly, Erdogan huge investment and support for his parliamentary candidates paid off for him in his toughest election ever. The winning of majority seats was clearly what gave him victory in the run-off. Assuming Erdogan and the AKP had lost their parliamentary majority, it is clear that Erdogan would have lost the run-off and nothing could have saved him. The NPP moving towards the 2024 elections must take lessons from this.
NIGERIA’S FEBRUARY 2023 ELECTIONS
Nigeria went to polls with almost all polls predicting a victory for either Peter Obi and his Labour Party or Atiku Abubakar PDP. The only exception was the EIU which predicted a victory for Tinubu and the APC. Like the Turkey situation, the APC was faced with daunting economic challenges. There was a constant rising inflation, weakened currency, fuel shortages and shortage of Naira just few days to the election. Despite these, the APC and Tinubu won the elections with 36.61% , the PDP had 29.07% whilst the LP of Peter Obi had 25.40%.
The APC victory at the presidential election was anchored on their majority seats won at the House of Representatives and senatorial elections. They convincingly won the majority of seats at both the House of Representatives and Senatorial elections. At the House of Representatives, the APC alone won 192 seats out of the 360 seats. They had more than the 181 seats they needed for a simple majority. The PDP had 128, LP had 8 with 28 going to other political parties. 2 seats are still vacant. At the Senatorial elections, the APC had 59 seats out of 109 seats which was more than the 55 seats they needed for a simple majority. The PDP had 40 whilst the remaining seats were shared among the LP and other smaller political parties.
The APC invested heavily in the House of Representatives elections and it helped them to secure not only a clear majority in the House of Representatives but also a presidential victory they were mocked and ruled out by opinion pollsters.
Like the APC in Nigeria and AKP in Turkey, we had similar situations in our political history. The Dr. Limman’s PNP mainly won the presidential run-off in 1979 against Victor Owusu’s PFP due to the fact that the PNP won majority seats during the first round of the elections.
Likewise the 2000 presidential elections. The NPP then won 48.4% in the first round with 99 parliamentary seats. This was superior to the NDC’s 44.8% with 92 seats. The other political parties especially the PNC and CPP had about 7% of the votes with 8 seats. With the NPP leading in the first round and having parliamentary majority, the other political parties easily pushed their support for then candidate Kuffuor and the NPP and we won the run-off with 56.9% as against the NDC 43.1%.
The 2008 elections also presented to us another scenario. This time the NPP won the first round with 49.13% as against the NDC 47.92%. Unfortunately for us, we lost our parliamentary majority as we had 107 seats against the NDC 116. The other political parties and independent candidates won 7 seats. Despite leading in the first round, the other political parties decided to align themselves with the opposition NDC just because they had the parliamentary majority. Some other political parties who were not comfortable with the NDC decided to stay neutral and asked their members to vote on whoever they want. The results showed that they opted for the NDC which had the parliamentary majority from the first round. Late Prof. Mills of blessed memory won the run-off with 50.23% as against 49.77% for us in the NPP.
It is very clear that in all elections, the political party that concentrate in winning more seats end up winning the presidential elections. Though we have issues of skirt and blouse voting in Ghana, they are few and isolated areas. Majority of constituencies who vote for their choice of parliamentary candidate eventually vote his presidential candidate too. Supporting MPs to win their seats should be the priority of the party moving towards the 2024 presidential and parliamentary elections.
The NPP must work hard to win the 2024 elections and if the worse happens and the election is pushed to a run-off, winning parliamentary majority in the first round is what would easily secure us victory in the run-off. Winning of parliamentary majority won the run-off for us in 2000 and our inability to secure the parliamentary majority led to our defeat in the 2008 run-off.
The NPP party and government should target all 138 seats that formed the majority group in parliament and this must be deliberate. All these constituencies should be prioritized for development in terms of projects both new and ongoing. Beyond the 138 seats, we can also identify some additional winnable seats and focus on them for victory 2024. The NDC cannot win 2024 but if we do not get our strategy right then we will on our own hand over power to the NDC.
Let us watch it as a party and government, during the NDC primaries we heard testimonies of projects undertaken in constituencies occupied by NDC MPs but we sadly cannot say same in some constituencies occupied by NPP MPs. Every part of Ghana must receive development but let us not forget those who entrusted us with their mandate. We cannot afford to lose the 2024 elections.
(BY HON AMIDU CHINNIA ISSAHAKU, SISAALA EAST MP)