Commentary

Erdogan Loses AKP Majority in Turkish Parliamentary Elections

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

Last Sunday, Turkey's voters delivered a stunning verdict regarding the country's future. Though the elections were parliamentary, the real issue at stake was whether Turkey would become a presidential system or remain as a parliamentary democracy. Many feared that President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan's party — the Justice and Development Party (AKP) —would maintain its majority and perhaps even garner sufficient seats in the new parliament to push forward constitutional changes giving more powers to the office of the president. As it turns out, the AKP lost its majority and the country is now faced with the prospect of a minority government or early elections. Either way, it is clear that the Turkish electorate has sent a clear message to Mr. Erdogan and his party, a message that many see as a vindication of the secular political alliances in Turkey.

Considering the uncertainty following the parliamentary elections, the Anadolou Agency suggests that the next few days and weeks will witness a flurry of activity by both the AKP as well as the main opposition parties, aimed at putting forward a stable governing coalition: "As no political party managed to achieve a majority in Sunday's general election in Turkey, the country is expected to see a period of negotiation to decide the next steps in forming a government.… The country faces three options — a coalition government, a minority government or snap elections under the care of an interim government….If neither the AK Party nor the CHP can form a government within 45 days, the president must call for a fresh election and appoint a prime minister within five days to form an interim government consisting of representatives from all four parties according to their number of deputies."

Many, including the Daily Sabah's Pinar Kandemir, agree that the most surprising aspect of the election outcome was the greater than expected electoral victory of the pro-Kurdish party HDP: "The striking surprise of this election is the result that the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) received. Although various possible scenarios on the significance of the HDP's situation were mentioned before the elections by most analysts, no one was sure about the percent of the vote they would get. At the end of the day, although the pro-Kurdish HDP's decision to run as a party rather than with individual candidates was quite a big risk for them...now it seems like the strategy worked out successfully and they even surprised themselves with the result they got…. With the anti-AK Party coalition, which was surprisingly heterogeneous with a range of mainstream Turkish media, reputable academics, journalists and public figures, Demirtaş was presented as a pop star and his election campaign was run and managed by different groups with different strategies and motivations."

Not all see HDP and its members in the same light. For example, Yildiray Ogur draws attention to the past of many of the HDP candidates, suggesting that the party itself is less liberal than otherwise suggested: "Western media describes the HDP as a rainbow movement, comprising environmentalists, homosexuals and women. In this case, some truths should be kept in order not to wake them from their dream: Figen Yüksekdağ is the former leader of an old-fashioned socialist party that defended dictatorship of the proletariat, HDP candidate for İzmir Ertuğrul Kürkçü was a member of a militant group in the 1970s that kidnapped and killed Israeli Consul General Ephraim Elrom in Istanbul along with three British technicians, HDP candidate for Istanbul Levent Tüzel is the leader of a party that follows the line of Enver Hoxha and believes in Stalin's virtues and the HDP's Alevi candidates for İzmir and Istanbul joined pro-Bashar Assad rallies. In Egypt, we witnessed an example in which the army saved democracy according to the West. So it comes as no surprise that the West expects the same from an armed organization in Turkey."

Hurriyet Daily News' Serkan Demirtas on the other hand examines the potential political alliances, including the possibility of a minority government or even early elections: "In line with Turkish laws and custom, President Erdoğan has to invite AKP chair Ahmet Davutoğlu to the presidential palace to give him the mandate to form the government. The next government has to be formed within 45 days after the mandate is given and in the event of a failure, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) will announce early elections in two months…. In this regard, Davutoğlu could launch a negotiation process with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, but a coalition protocol will not be easy given the latter's strong opposition to Erdoğan's interventions in governmental affairs….One very important risk the AKP and Erdoğan could face is the possibility that a large coalition between the CHP, MHP and HDP could be formed on certain conditions and with the purpose of undermining Erdoğan's position."

Setting aside the political calculations, it is clear to many that even though Mr. Erdogan's name was not on the ballot box, his proposed constitutional reforms and self-serving empowerment of the presidential office were. That is the view of Today's Zaman's Ozer Sencar, who believes "Erdoğan's blatant trampling of the principle of objectivity that comes with the Office of the President did much to harm the AKP's sense of gravitas, not to mention its image as a party, during the campaign period….In fact, the dimension to which Erdoğan participated in the election campaigning -- in a way anathema not only to basic democratic customs in this country but to principles of objectivity underscored in our Constitution -- wound up turning the parliamentary election into a referendum on him. And, to wit, the AKP emerged from June 7 voting with a percentage not far from the already low 38 percent satisfaction level expressed by the people for the president lately. There is simply no question that the 41 percent vote netted by the AKP in this critical round of voting is a strong symbol of failure. And, in the coming days, we'll see who is held responsible for this failure."

As for the country's current Prime Minister, Yusuf Kanli points out that this election was a lose-lose proposition, even though President Erdogan received a stinging defeat: "Davutoğlu is the absolute loser of this election, but it was said well before the start of the election campaign that it was impossible for him to win anyway. Why? Had he won enough seats to elevate Erdoğan to the position of  'super president,' Davuoğlu would become a lame duck; had he failed, Erdoğan would get rid of him and continue with someone else. Now, what will Erdoğan do other than asking Davutoğlu to form a coalition government and forget about his grandiose delusions? ... [T]he Turkish people shouted strongly enough for everyone to hear: We do not want a presidential system. We do not want dictatorship. We want reconciliation. We want tolerance."

Looking at the success of the opposition parties, Murat Askoy argues that the final outcome was a vindication of the efforts of the secularists to stem the tide of authoritarianism in Turkey: "Despite Erdoğan's insistence, resistance won in Gezi and Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost. This was the success of social opposition and protests. The government and its supporters, who tried to undermine Gezi by referring to the violence at some of the protests, still rely on the same policy.… Gezi also revealed something else about the AKP that we did not know before. Gezi exposed the AKP's true vision of 2023.... Because of fears, they thought they would lose what they have. For this reason, they started to repeat the lies they did not believe in political rallies and on TV programs. As Muslims, they did not hesitate to tell lies on a daily basis. And they still keep telling those lies...This revealed the true content of the AKP's 2023 vision. It became evident that this vision had nothing to do with democracy, freedoms, constitutional citizenship, pluralism and other universal values. This was evidenced by their reaction to the Gezi protests."


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