On the threshold of change: the consequences of Turkey’s recent general election

The rearrangement of political actors may change the country’s development vector.

The history of parliamentary elections in Turkey can be considered as the most dynamic element of a historical process in the country’s republican period. In recent years, the parliamentary majority and the opportunity to form a government has been due to the activities of the Justice and Development Party (or Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi in Turkish), more commonly referred to as the AKP. Results of the elections, which were announced on the 7th of June, suggest that Turkey is on the threshold of change although at such an early stage it is difficult to say if this change will be positive or negative and how it will affect the economic and political situation.

Over the years the previous government, formed by the AKP leadership, managed to find innovative solutions to improve the transport system, strengthen relationships with a number of neighboring countries, to carry out systemic changes in healthcare as well as a possible solution to the energy issue, agreeing to build a “Turkish Stream gas pipeline” with Russia.

Despite the fact of positively oriented reforms there is also a  list of events that are used against AKP by its political opposition to compromise the government (a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Turkey began on 28 May 2013, initially to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Gezi Park on Taksim square,  «Balyoz» that is known as  an alleged Turkish military coup plan which reportedly dates back to 2003 and was to stir up chaos and justify a military coup;  process against «Ergenekon» members who have been indicted on charges of plotting to foment unrest, among other things like assassinating intellectuals, politicians, judges, military staff, and religious leaders, with the ultimate goal of toppling the incumbent government; «Devrimci Karargah» that first came to public attention in April 2009, when some of its members were involved in a six-hour gun battle with police in the Istanbul neighbourhood of Bostanci, leading to the death of a policeman and a bystander. The organization’s leader Orhan Yılmazkaya and 20 of its members were arrested in September 2009 and  finally a «Parallel government»  process was triggered by an attack on February 7, 2012  when “Jamaat”  tried to control the security services of Turkey, and 12-25 of December when the same group determined the government as a main aim).  The synthesis of this two opposite components formed non-homogenous position of civil society before the elections on 7 th of June 2015.

The current Turkish government formed by the ruling AKP faces various difficulties and losses to certain political positions when it came to this year elections. An additional impetus to rivet their attention to events in Ankara becomes the need for constitutional changes planned as early as 2012, and the desire to transform the current leadership in the “presidential republic”.

According to the legislative platform, the process of events on election results is simple: if the parliamentary majority forms the government, then accordingly this office continues to work until the next election. However, in the absence of the expected formation of a coalition majority an extraordinary election is held in 3 or 6 months.

The particular intrigue of this election was probably the question of whether the pro-Kurdish party HDP would pass the 10% threshold to become parliamentarians, and if the current AKP would fall below 45%. Nobody doubted that the MHP and the CHP would make the parliament as usual. The results were eagerly awaited by those who wondered whether there would be the need for a coalition between the AKP and some of those who overcame the 10% barrier.

After the elections on the 7th of June when almost 99.9% of the votes where counted, the results appeared as following: AKP obtained 40,81%, CHP – 25%, MHP – 16,33% and pro-Kurdish HDP – 13,08%. On the agenda just one question arrived: with the AKP having lost the majority, what were the possible formations of government?

In his first interview, the leader of MHP Devlet Bahcheli made it clear that there are no possibilities to create a coalition with the AKP, and that they are ready for early elections, but after a week MHP changed its position and defined that if the coalition would be created it has to include AKP. As such, the selection of a possible coalition is limited: The first option would be an AKP-CHP coalition – a party that has built its election campaign on the fact that the AKP would deprive a majority government, however some experts are in favor of the possibility of such a coalition. The second option is more radical and more akin to the arrival of Hamas in power of the Palestinian Authority as if the HDP gained power, the Kurdish question would suddenly be on the current government’s agenda.

The first version of the coalition suggests that the CHP needs to form a coalition government with the AKP, which automatically resulted in mass discontent supporters on both sides. In addition, CHP – the party founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is aimed at preserving the principles of “secularism” in the same form as it was in the period of the First President of the country. Coalition CHP – AKP, firs of all,  strikes to the image of both parties, acting as classical opponents of each other. The second option, an AKP coalition with the HDP, with whom negotiations have been conducted repeatedly, is probably the main reason to discredit the AKP in the eyes of voters, which in principle meant that for the next elections, the majority party will have to lose a significant share of electoral votes. This time supporters of the AKP, which will not be able to overcome the coalition with the Party will have to address the Kurdish issue in Turkey. If the coalition does not take place in the near future it will form an permanent government, and after 3-6 months, Turkey might expect early elections.

However, the possibility of a coalition between the opposition parties HDP & CHP should not be discounted, having been mentioned by both the leader of the HDP, Salahaddin Demirtash, and deputy head of the CHP, Sezgin Tanrykulu. There is still a small issue on how to persuade for coalition MHP leader Devlet Bahcheli, that firstly expressed in more than categorical, saying that “even if the coalition of the AKP with HDP or AKP with HDP and CHP held, then MHP is prepared solely represent the opposition bloc in parliament, if the coalition will not, then the MHP expects early elections» but changed his own position and made it more flexible after a week of discussions and meetings with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and colleagues from other parties.

In the case of the creation of a permanent government, the AKP will continue to work to create the image of a “progressive” party with democratic values and the presence of “the Islamic factor” as a key in the implementation of its policies, and its opponents continue to discredit. AAnother case scenario could be creating a new party instead of the AKP, a sort of continuity with the best experience and under the patronage of the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which could be lead by the former president of Turkey Abdullah Gul.

In general, the situation created after the elections on June the 7th addresses many questions primarily in regards to the AKP that is looking for a way to form a government with the nation’s 40.81% of the vote and the lack of a worthy partner for the creation of a coalition in parliament. Opponents, in particular the CHP and HDP, are speaking of the impossibility of a dialogue with the AKP rather than seeking the most advantageous point solutions in tandem with those whose representation in Parliament, even in the absence of an absolute majority is more than significant. Participants need to break the division in order to take advantage of any situation or to translate into the mainstream of early elections. This fact certainly will be a key factor in determining the course of Turkey.

Author Biography

Ilsur Nafikov has a PhD in history and works as an assistant Lecturer of the Department of Political history and world Politics at the Kazan Federal University. He also works as a correspondent for the Tatar national broadcasting company “TNV”. Among his interests are religious revival, the Islamic factor in the European space, church-state relations and the Islamic factor in the formation of regional security. To date he has written more than more than 15 scientific articles and manuals.

*Cover image ‘A Statesman’s Forum with H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey‘ by the Brookings Institution

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