The elections for Turkish Grand National Assembly on 7 June 2015 have halted the AKP’s long hold on power. Despite remaining the largest party, election results were a surprise to the AKP. The new government is likely to change dynamics in the region.
Among 31 political parties competed to gain seats at the national assembly, four parties were able to pass the harsh 10% electoral threshold with AKP gaining 40.70%, CHP 25.16%, MHP 16,50%, HDP 12,99%.
AKP failure and Kurdish victory
Results have paralysed President Erdoğan’s plans to change the constitution to increase the power of the ceremonial presidential role. In this perspective perhaps democracy is the true winner of the elections as voters punished the AKP for Erdoğan’s ambitions to create a Putin- style super presidency.
However Erdoğan’s masterplan was not the only cause of AKP’s nine points loss from the last elections in 2011. For AKP opponents, campaigns to halt increasing state authoritarianism and violation of democratic rights gained a momentum at the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Ranging from Kemalists to anti-capitalist Muslims, Nationalists to Kurds and the LGBT, politics in Turkey have experienced an unconventional coalition of opposing views in the expense of disposing AKP policies. Recent corruption allegations and power struggles inside the AKP was another prominent factor for decreasing public trust towards the AKP. For the most part, civil war in Syria and Iraq has been unfortunate for the AKP and the government has received heavy criticism for interfering with Middle Eastern conflicts and disorganised refugee policies. In fact Turkish unemployment has been rising consecutively for the last two years and the influx of almost two million refugees had a destructive affect on employment for many Turks at the border cities.
The success of the pro-Kurdish party HDP on the other hand is a victory story. By obtaining almost 13% of the votes, the HDP has become the third largest party in the parliament. The HDP’s gamble to pass the 10% threshold has worked with “trust” votes, meaning voters from other political groups have voted HDP in the June elections for the sake of preventing millions of HDP votes to being redistributed mostly to the AKP as a result of the threshold policy. In addition to Kurdish votes,
Winners according to provinces
Kurdish campaign and Syrians at home: increasing Turkish nationalism
Although the June 7 elections saw an increase in HDP votes across Turkey, far-right nationalist party MHP has also increased both its votes and its seats at the parliament. By looking into issues feeding Turkish nationalism, the MHP’s relative success can be explained. For a long time, Kurdish struggle was intertwined with PKK terrorism and the strong ties between the HDP and the jailed PKK leader Öcalan have inevitably made resentful Turks turn their support to MHP. Moreover, tensions about Syrian refugees and the AKP’s Middle East policies might have been the reasons for some Turks to turn their hopes to the MHP which is expected to follow a less ambitious foreign policy.
What next in Turkey?
With no party with majority, coalition would be the first move. As of two weeks after the elections, a picture of a coalition is still uncertain. With the AKP having lost the majority, different coalition possibilities are present.
A coalition between the CHP and the HDP could mean increasing social and democratic rights for Kurds and equal rights for LGBT. However this coalition cannot form a majority without MHP support and given the MHP’s strong stance against rights for the Kurdish minority, a coalition between the CHP, HDP and MHP seems very unlikely.
Another option is the grand coalition that is the government of the two main political powers. However a coalition between the AKP and the CHP seems hard as political Islamist AKP and secular Kemalist CHP are ideologically opposing views. On the other hand, an AKP-MHP coalition could have been likely as both are right parties. However, the AKP cannot afford alienating the Kurdish movement by forming a government that would oppose addressing Turkey’s Kurdish question.
As a constitutional requirement, parties must form a government within 45 days of an election and if all the democratic channels fail, elections could be called again.
In Turkey, the role of parliament speaker has been traditionally given to the majority party. With no party having the majority, the party that will get the post is unknown. However, by the 3rd of July the speaker must be elected and the way it’s done will be an indicator of cross party agreements leading to a coalition.
Key issues are awaiting
Turkey sits between the turmoil in Syria, the threat from Iran, the economic crisis in Greece and Russian aggression in the region. This incredible and perhaps quite unfortunate location gives Turkey a prominent role in the current global political agenda. Turkey is also becoming crucial in the energy security of the region. Accession negotiations with the EU are almost on hold due to a mutual lack of willingness, the Eurozone crisis and the possibility of a British exit. Additionally, the Cyprus Conflict is still unresolved and issues with Armenia are deadlocked.
Turkey could achieve a greater peace with a coalition. A coalition that does not discriminate or alienate as secular against conservative or Turkish against Kurdish could redefine the politics of Turkey. An integrated Kurdish political movement to Turkish politics under HDP’s current vision is likely to change the dynamics of the region. Turkey matters for everyone searching for political answers in Europe, in the Middle East and in Asia, and this is precisely why we should keep a close watch on Turkey this summer.
Emir Tan is a student of politics and international relations at the University of Kent. His research interests include EuroAsian issues (the European Union and Russia), foreign policy analysis, political philosophy, Turkish politics and political economy.