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How Turkey’s ruling AKP regained its parliamentary majority

Since August, Turkey has been run by a caretaker government because of the failure to form a coalition

Published: Updated:

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has secured a parliamentary majority, according to general-election results announced on Sunday. The AKP is set to rule the country for another four years.

It got 49.4 percent of the vote, and 316 deputies in the 550-member legislature, by gaining votes in almost every city.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) achieved 25.4 percent (134 deputies).

The pro-Kurdish, left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) came third with 10.7 percent (59 deputies), barely crossing the 10-percent threshold needed to enter parliament, and losing 1 million votes since the last election five months ago.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) garnered 12 percent (41 deputies), losing a large share of its nationalist and conservative support base to the AKP.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Sunday: “This is a victory for our democracy and our people.” Voter turnout was 85 percent.

In June, the AKP lost the parliamentary majority it had enjoyed since 2002, with 258 seats.

Since August, Turkey has been run by a caretaker government because of the failure to form a coalition.

Reasons

Dr Emre Toros, chair of the department of political science and public administration at Atilim University in Ankara, said the electorate may have seen the past few months as a period of political and economic instability.

The electorate “also noticed that a coalition isn’t an option... and decided to roll back the system to the factory settings of 2011,” when the AKP had a parliamentary majority, Toros told Al Arabiya News.

Merve Tahiroglu, Turkey specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), said in the June elections the electorate sent a clear message to the AKP to distance itself from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and to compromise on some of its more controversial positions.

“The message is now directed to the opposition. The results suggest that voters who supported political change in June are now prioritizing the country’s need for political and economic stability,” Tahiroglu told Al Arabiya News.

“These voters would rather elect a party they only partially support in order to strengthen the government in the face of pressing challenges.

“There’s also clear disappointment with the HDP for its perceived failure to condemn” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose ceasefire with the government has collapsed over the last few months." Tahiroglu also noted.

Challenges

The AKP’s success may boost Erdogan’s hopes of expanding his presidential powers, although the party still lacks the 367 seats needed to unilaterally change the constitution.

Crystallizing popular concern over this, Cumhuriyet - one of the few remaining secular, anti-government newspapers in Turkey - published the headline “Last exit before dictatorship” a day before the election.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, who heads the German Marshall Fund in Ankara, said during the June election Erdogan asked for enough seats to change the constitution, and voters responded by denying the AKP a simple majority.

“In this election he asked for a simple majority, and voters responded by giving the AKP more,” he told Al Arabiya News.

“If Davutoglu takes this as a message that the voter is happy with a majority AKP government, but isn’t enthusiastic about changing the political system, his government can decrease societal tension and focus on solving existing problems.”

Bahadir Kaleagasi, international coordinator for the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD), said the immediate focus should be a comprehensive reform agenda, especially the rule of law, judiciary, public procurement, digital economy and education.

“These are major challenges to be courageously faced in view of boosting the country’s EU process, economic growth, social stability, and attractiveness for international economic actors,” Kaleagasi told Al Arabiya News.

The election result came as a surprise to poll companies that had predicted that the AKP would not get an outright majority.