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Assessing Turkey’s Post-Election Scenario

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Assessing Turkey's Post-Election Scenario
Assessing Turkey’s Post-Election Scenario

Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, a man who has held power in Turkey from last 13 years, perhaps over-reached in elections this time. He wanted the voters to back his political constitutional reforms, instead he has been handed over a weak parliamentary majority. Election polls in Turkey have revealed interesting results. Justice and Development Party (AK Party) that won last three general elections held in 2002, 2007, and 2011 endearing 34.3%, 46.6%, and 49.8% votes respectively, lost majority this year gaining 40.9% votes. This has led to beginning of a new uncertain era of politics in Turkey.

The election was significant because of Erdoðan, who campaigned hard for AK Party from the front. Although being the founder of the party, this wasn’t unusual but being President of Turkey it was. At first, it is vital to mention factors that led to decline in AK Party’s voter base. These include paying less attention to public concerns, elitist orientation of AK Party, and failure to introduce intra-party reforms.

The apparent reasons for loss appears to be the Kurdish peace process. The constituencies where AK Party has gained less votes are the ones holding unfavourable opinion towards this peace process. Furthermore, election results are being talked about in a manner that demonstrates AK Party as a loser. Rather, one should remember that even today the AK Party has only lost simple majority to form one party government, whereas it still has acquired 16% votes more than its closest competitive. It has almost double number of MPA’s, i.e. 258 compared to second leading party’s 132 seats. Voter turnout of 86%, with majority still voting for AK Party needs not to be overlooked. AK Party is still an important political actor in Turkish political arena and people see to it as a party that can fulfil their demands.

Moving further, it is equally important to bring about factors that have led to success of opposition parties, as it was to analyse why AK Party lost its majority. To begin with, is the second largest party, i.e. Republican Peoples Party (CHP),a secular oriented party founded by Kamal Ataturk. Despite the fact that the party prioritised economics, it couldn’t win big on account of being perceived as elitist and anti-Islamic. Third largest party is the pro-Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a party oriented towards Turkish nationalism and labelled by some as protest party. It shares the voter base with ruling AK Party, i.e. when AKP goes down, MHP goes up and vice versa. Fourth party is Pro-Turkish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a nationalist party that tried to adopt broad campaign strategy in this election by attracting minorities, campaigning on gay rights, focusing on democracy and environment, among other issues. It remained successful in attracting to its camp some religious Kurds from AK Party and left wing liberal Turkish party.

Next important aspect to consider is whether or not the AK Party will be successful in forming a new government. It has got 45 days to try but coalition looks unlikely as the three winning opposition parties have said that they are not interested. For them this is the first democratic exercise. In addition, there exists mistrust between ruling party and the parties in opposition. Presently, political environment in Turkey is considered to be less conducive to coalition building. Nonetheless, AK Party has outlined three conditions for possible coalition allies. These include: 1) fighting against the “parallel state” (term used by President Recep Tayyip Erdoðan to refer to the supporters of the faith-based Gülen movement), 2) pursuing the settlement process which addresses the decades-old Kurdish issue and 3) the acknowledgment of Erdoðan’s legitimacy.

Though the opposition leaders disprove the chance of making coalition with ruling AK Party but seeing real issues like power sharing, resource sharing etc. the possibility is that they will be interested to involve in coalition negotiation. If that’s not possible, then next probable development is coalition among opposition parties. If both these options failed, third option left is to call for early elections. On one hand, going for fresh voting at this stage appears to be an impractical option as public is not going to vote differently in a short span of time. Whereas, on the other hand, with AK Party failing to form a government, holding earlier elections will be inevitable. Therefore, political changes within next coming months are likely. For the meantime, AK Party members should re-evaluate election results to figure out what went wrong and where they made mistakes.

The analysis done hitherto leads to the need of analysing another important aspect, i.e. Erdoðan’s political future that hangs in balance and is certainly connected to AK Party’s electoral outcome. Presently, Erdogan’s position is not at stake as he is an elected President until 2019.What lies at stake is the mandate for the AK Party and possibility for Erdoðan to change his current position into an executive one to which the election results have clearly said no. It is however noteworthy because in October last year, AK Party’s vote gain was 50%, and the same Erdoðan was dominating the discourse. This indicates that something else came into play that has altered election results that might be regional context, economic downturn, or the rise of nationalism both on Turkish and Kurdish sides. Thus the results should not be analysed from the pro and anti-Erdoðanism perspective as it would be simplistic.

Lastly, with Turkish people having said no to internalise Erdoðan’s idea of Presidential system, President Erdoðan needs to re-analyse whether or not to push forward this idea. While it’s true that Turkish voter didn’t comprehend what this new executive system means and took it somewhat as single man dictatorship, but overall too, this has turned to be a flop idea. Considerably, this has caused Erdoðan lose his admirers which makes the introduction of Presidential system a debatable issue. At the end, it can be concluded that President Erdoðan’s choice to opt for either confrontation or conciliation with the opposition would guide the future course of Turkish politics.

Published by Pakistan Observer on June 18, 2015

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Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are no necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.

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