Turkey poll 2015: Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party wins but without majority needed for constitutional change for presidential system!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Turkish voters have responded negatively for a presidential form of government which the ruling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has sought openly.
Turkey’s ruling party won the most seats in the parliamentary elections held on June 07, but it fell short of the majority needed to rule without forming a coalition with other parties. With 98% of votes in Turkey’s parliamentary elections tabulated, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 41% of the vote, or 259 of the 550 seats up for grabs. Erdogan’s party had looked to win 330 seats, which would allow it to carry out a referendum for constitutional changes without needing votes from other parties. The trend is clearly not supporting the Erdogan’s political agenda.
The results also showed the main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP) roughly maintaining its previous level of support, with 25 per cent, and the rightwing Nationalist Movement party advancing to 16.4 per cent.
The parliamentary elections were expected to bring about drastic change in Turkey leading to US style presidential form of government. But few anticipated that the country’s early election results would signal the end of the dominance the AKP has enjoyed since it came to power. In order to change the constitution for a presidential system, the ruling AKP needs the support of other parties as well. Having fallen short of that majority, Erdogan’s proposal to shift power from the Prime Minister’s Office to the president is in doubt now.
While President Erdogan said a shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system would increase the efficiency of government, all the main opposition parties countered that it would be a step towards dictatorship.
Turkey’s Islamist-rooted AK party lost its parliamentary majority after 13 years in power on Sunday night in a stunning blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AKP support fell to 41 per cent, from almost 50 per cent in the previous general election four years ago, based on results from almost 100 per cent of polling booths. The loss of the ruling party’s majority was also largely the result of the advance of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party, or HDP, which has made inroads into AKP vote bank. The HDP had burst through the threshold with 13 per cent of the vote, apparently attracting votes from many liberal, secular Turks disillusioned by Erdogan’s allegedly authoritarian rule, as well as from the Kurdish minority.
For the first time since it came to power in 2002, the socially conservative AKP will likely have to form a coalition government. This is not an easy challenge, given that two opposition parties vowed in their campaigns that they would not be part of a coalition.
Erdogan became the country’s first directly elected President last year after serving three terms as Prime Minister as the head of the AKP. He lost no time in signaling he would like to see more powers transferred to the presidential palace.
Erdogan has been accused of autocratic tendencies, corruption and extravagance. The 1,000 room-plus the palace he built on publicly protected land is just one popular example. Erdogan has also been heavily criticized for failing to protect women’s and human rights, curbing freedom of speech and attempting to curb Turkey’s secular identity.
Erdogan’s emerging unpopularity may have contributed to a historic finish for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, the HDP. The HDP was seeking at least 10% of the vote to gain seats in parliament. Early polls put the party within the margin error, but the HDP appeared poised to easily surpass that threshold, with about 12% of the vote.
Voters traditionally skeptical of Kurdish parties strategically voted for the HDP knowing the party’s entry to parliament could hamper Erdogan’s presidential ambitions. But others are drawn to the HDP because they believe that the party represents an exciting opportunity for change. Over the years, the HDP has evolved into a more inclusive entity, able to appeal to non-Kurdish secular voters such as 24-year-old Yagmur Yilmaz. Yilmaz, student and self-described secular, leftist woman, she says she is a staunch supporter of the HDP because she believes they are a party that will safeguard human rights.
The ruling party’s campaign was dogged by problems it had avoided during earlier races. These included a slowing economy, the lack of a clear message and an awkward division of labor between Erdogan and Davutoglu. Policy divisions were evident between the two men on issues such as the economy and the presidential system itself. Tensions rose in the final days as rhetoric became ever bitterer. Two people were killed and more than 100 wounded at an HDP rally in the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Friday. One suspect was later apprehended.
Some youth who had previously voted for Erdogan did not vote this time because of his perceived passivity in the face of attacks on Syrian Kurds by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Isis.
Erdogan and PM Davutoglu said their opponents were part of an international plot against Turkey. The president also fulminated against the international media, particularly the New York Times, which he said was owned by “Jewish capital”.
Turkey is a country where politics can be unpredictable, too. Some party officials indicated that the AKP could seek to form a minority government and take the country to early elections, as the lira slid more than 3 per cent to TL2.75 to the dollar, a new low. The AKP, according to some analysts, could also call for early parliamentary elections, which would once again raise the potential for more political turmoil and economic instability.
The end of single-party rule, however, does not necessarily spell the end to Erdogan’s campaign for a constitution-changing majority to boost presidential powers. There is a feeling among many in Turkey and elsewhere that had President Erdogan not declared his “presidential system” project so openly, possibly his party would have got the necessary seats for constitutional change. But then that is only a speculation.
Obviously, President Erdogan won’t give up his agenda of presidential system for Turkey but then he needs to convince the opposition parties to agree for that- after all, he seeks a new system for Turkey and not for his party.