Turkey’s AKP knocked off the throne, but what next?
On June 7, more than 53 million Turkish voters went to the ballot boxes to cast their votes in one of the most critical elections
On June 7, more than 53 million Turkish voters went to the ballot boxes to cast their votes in a critical election that not only forms the new government for the next four years but also shapes the political landscape of the country for the upcoming years. After many years, Turkey went through an interesting and unpredictable election.
Sunday’s election was of critical importance as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), in a serious blow, lost its overall majority in the parliament for the first time after being in power for more than a decade. Although, the AK Party won about 41 percent of the vote, it failed to secure the 276 seats required to continue its single-party rule for another term in the 550-seat parliament.
Although the future shape of the government is still uncertain, it is significant to note that Turkey experienced a historic electionSinem Cengiz
With yesterday’s historic elections the 13-year single party rule of the AK Party ended and a pro-Kurdish party, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), passed the 10 percent election threshold and entered as the fourth party in the parliament. HDP’s passing of the critical threshold led to the decrease of the number of AK Party lawmakers, making it impossible for the AKP to reach the 330 seats necessary for constitutional changes. The results of the elections came as a big shock for the pro-AK Party circles as party’s votes decreased from the 49 percent it obtained in the 2011 elections to 41 percent. If the AK Party had won the majority of 330 seats, it could call for a referendum to make constitutional changes that would pave the way to replace the current parliamentary system with a presidential system.
Among the many reasons listed for the decrease of the AK Party votes, the desire of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to bring a presidential system to the country seems to have the highest priority. For the first time, all the three parties - HDP, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the National Movement Party (MHP) - united their forces against Erdogan’s calls for a presidential system. The results of the elections are considered a big reaction to Erdogan and his presidency.
According to prominent journalist Taha Akyol, former adviser to MHP’s founder Alparslan Türkeş, some MHP supporters voted for HDP in order to block Erdogan and his ambitions. It was not only the MHP voters, but also a significant number of CHP voters who voted for HDP, which managed to get five million votes to break the threshold. Also, many Kurds who voted for the AK Party earlier shifted their votes to the HDP, according to my sources. HDP Co-Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş stated that his party was aware that it has received “borrowed” votes from supporters of other parties, while promising not to let down those supporters.
The shifting of the votes of CHP and MHP to the HDP was an unprecedented development. Although the CHP didn’t manage to get the vote it expected, the leader of the party was pleased with the results. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in his speech stated that “democracy has won in Turkey and a repressive era ended through democratic means.” While the CHP ruled out a coalition with the AK Party, HDP, which entered to the parliament with about 80 deputies, also stated the party will not form a coalition with the ruling AK Party. MHP also said that it was too early for the party to consider forming a coalition government with the AK Party.
Rumors running rife
Rumors ran rife on social media and some commentators claimed that the results may lead to the resignation of the Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who in his balcony speech stated that the “nation’s decision was the best decision,” vowing to continue with the AK Party.
Senior Turkish AK Party officials said that the election results suggest a single party government may not be possible and that early elections might follow. While Turkish Education Minister Nabi Avcı said that the ruling AK Party was not expecting these results, AK Party MP Burhan Kuzu noted that early elections were unavoidable. The officials of the AK Party spoke about holding a snap election if forced to form a minority government.
In this particular case, there are several scenarios as there is no party that met the 276 threshold to form an individual government. In light of these circumstances, there are three main scenarios for Turkey in the post-election era; the formation of a minority government or a coalition, or holding early elections.
In the first scenario, the AK Party can form a minority government with less than 276 seats. This seems one of the likely scenarios. There is also a possibility of a CHP-MHP coalition with the HDP’s support – which seems the worst scenario for the AK Party.
Although the future shape of the government is still uncertain, it is significant to note that Turkey experienced a historic election as it entered a very different era in which the Kurds passed a crucial psychological barrier and the ruling party experienced a serious blow. Sunday’s election has important political significance for all the parties in Turkey; therefore it is in the best interest of Turkey for the parties to learn lessons from these elections.
Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst based in Athens. Born and lived in Kuwait, Cengiz focuses mainly on issues regarding Middle East and Turkey’s relations with the region. She was also the former diplomatic correspondent for Today’s Zaman newspaper, English daily in Turkey. She is currently researching on Turkish-Saudi relations to complete her MA in International Relations. She can be found on Twitter: @SinemCngz