Uncertainty abounds after Turkish election shock

Uncertainty abounds after Turkish election shock
3 min read
08 June, 2015
Ruling AKP comes out on top once again after Sunday's elections, but fails to achieve a parliamentary majority for the first time.
Turkey is eagerly awaiting news on who will be part of the coaltiion government (AFP)

Depending on who you're listening to, the results of Turkey's parliamentary elections on Sunday either spell the “beginning of the end” for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP, or that the party, which has ruled since 2002, is “the winner of the election”.

How can this discrepancy be explained?

The Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 41% of the vote, winning a projected 258 seats in the 550-seat Turkish parliament. That is almost double the seats won by their nearest rival in parliament, the Republican People's Party (CHP), who sit on 132 seats.

So, a victory for the AKP?

Well, although the AKP has come out on top again for the fourth election running, this result represents a five percent swing away from the AKP, and the lowest number of seats in their electoral history.

Since their first participation in 2002, the AKP has seen its share on the vote increase at each election, until now.

The vote also represents a major blow for Erdogan, who was prime minister from 2003 until 2014, before assuming the presidency. Erdogan has sought to change Turkey's parliamentary system to a presidential one, which would have needed a constitutional change – something that could not have been approved without a two-thirds majority in parliament, which the AKP are far off.

How did this happen?

Erdogan has increasingly become a hugely polarising in Turkey, yet the Turkish opposition has largely been in disarray, and unable to counter the AKP's popularity.

However, a new force in Turkish politics, the left-wing People's Democratic Party (HDP), which is rooted in Kurdish nationalism in Turkey's south-east, has emerged, and done surprisingly well, coming in fourth.

The HDP have been able to broaden their appeal away from just the Kurds, and were able to attract a broad coalition of support, especially the demographic that supported 2013's Gezi Park protests.

Yet it could have been so different.

Turkey's high electoral threshold means that parties with less than 10 percent of the vote are not allocated any seats in parliament, and it was touch and go as to whether the HDP would be able to reach that threshold.

They did, taking 13% of the vote, and a projected 80 seats. But a couple of percentage points here or there and the results would have been very different, with those 80 seats given to the other parties, and the AKP result looking much healthier.

Now, Turkey faces weeks of uncertainty, with the AKP unable to form a parliamentary majority for the first time on its own.

The most likely coalition partner is the right-wing nationalist MHP, but a AKP-minority government looks more probable, for now.

An early election then? They can be called in 45 days. Nevertheless, would an emboldened parliamentary opposition agree to that?

Clearly, uncertainty abounds – an uncertainty that looks to linger for the foreseeable future.