Erdogan’s AKP Dominates Turkey’s Parliamentary Elections

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu casts his ballot with his wife Sare at a polling station during the parliamentary election in KonyaPhoto Credit: Reuters

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s Justice and Development Party (AKP) claimed victory in Turkey’s snap elections on Sunday, regaining the majority in parliament it lost in the June elections when the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) passed the 10 percent threshold needed to enter the legislature. Prior to the elections, questions surrounding Erdogan’s commitment to democracy have grown as his government stifled dissent, spearheaded raids of newspaper offices, and renewed hostilities with Kurdish insurgents. In what was widely viewed as an upset, the AKP won 49.4 percent of the popular vote and 317 seats in Parliament, with a reported voter turn out of 85 percent.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) claimed 25.4 percent of the vote while the Nationalist Movement (MHP) taking 11.9 percent. The HDP won 10 percent of the vote, down from roughly 13 in June’s elections, with some speculating that religious Kurds switched allegiances to the AKP. On the decrease, HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said, “Maybe we lost one million votes but we are a party that managed to stand up against all massacre policies.” Turkey will now return to single-party rule, though the AKP will not have enough seats to unilaterally amend the constitution. Alluding to Erdogan’s desire to move towards a presidential system with greater executive powers, Prime Minister Davutoglu urged “all parties entering Parliament to form a new civilian national constitution” in his victory speech.

International observers assert the elections were unfair and “destabilizing” because tension, marked by the arrest of opposition figures and crackdown on the press, permeated the political climate in Turkey. Ignacio Sanchez Amor, Special Coordinator and Leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission, stated that in addition to restrictions on freedom of the press and expression, “physical attacks on party members, as well as the significant security concerns, particularly in the southeast… imposed restrictions on the ability to campaign.”

The Washington Institute’s Soner Cagaptay argued that “Erdogan’s ‘strong man who can protect you’ strategy has claimed victory for [him] and for [the] PKK,” adding that the elections are free but becoming “less fair.” Carnegie Europe’s Sinan Ulgen asserted that the results “attest to the ineffectiveness of Turkey’s parliamentary opposition” while warning the AKP not to rely on “a heavily paternalistic style of governance.” The lesson of the June and November elections, he argued, is that “Turkey’s voters want a strong, stable government, but not one that runs roughshod over its opponents.”