That President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) would not win absolute majority in the June 2015 parliamentary election was expected given that popularity fatigue is natural to all the long-serving democratic parties. But what hastened this process is believed to be his widely resented plan to shift the balance of power from the parliament to the presidency by amending the constitution; a negative shared even by some in his own party.
In his move to make the office of president all-powerful the Turkish public detected rise of political absolutism, to which he was anathematic in the early years of his tenure as the prime minister of Turkey. Then there was his running dispute with media, which was increasingly critical of his style of governance, culminating into a harsh treatment of widely respected Editor-in-Chief of the Cumhuriyet on the eve of election. This too must have cost him a considerable chunk of public support.
No wonder then the election to the 550-seat Turkish parliament this past Sunday was one of the most hotly contested affair in the history of Turkey – the turnout was nearly 86 percent – and was a game-changer in the sense that that it throws up a weaker government headed by the ruling AKP either as senior partner in a coalition or a minority government. It has won 41 percent of votes (259 seats) as against its above 50 percent in the past national elections. The parties it would have to contend with Republican People’s Party (CHP) with 25 percent votes (131 seats), National Movement Party (MHP) 16.5 percent votes (82 seats) and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) 13 percent votes (78 seats). As of now the President Erdogan’s coalition partner is expected to be the MHP; the other two are quite unlikely to enter into a coalition with AKP as they nurture clashing worldviews.
The CHP will expectedly take the role of traditional opposition in the Turkish parliament which it had ever since the AKP came to power in 2002. And the Kurdish HDP too, which has registered a stellar victory for its consistent rejection of what it flaunted as the Erdogan’s anti-Kurdish mindset, would love to be in the opposition.
At this point in time, it would be crassly outlandish to think that for the Erdogan-led AKP this election marks the beginning of the end. No doubt his weaker hold on the parliament would impact, negatively, the rise of Turkey as a major political stakeholder and economic power in the region.
Much of the clout Turkey enjoys today is owing to its political stability and pragmatic economic policies that Erdogan initiated and followed as its two-term prime minister. So, should Turkey step back from this position of primacy the analysts would certainly like to revisit the outcome of this election. But now that the people have spoken it is what they would like their country to be.
With much less than 367 seats in hand – which makes for a two-thirds majority in the parliament required for constitutional amendment – it is not possible for him to change the parliamentary form of government into a presidential one. However, he can go for a referendum to win public support of presidential form, but that depends on how he settles down in the dramatically changed scenario, particularly with his nemesis, pro-Kurdish HDP, now in parliament as a party. Previously, it had been there but only as Independents – for, it had not met the constitutional condition of crossing the mandatory threshold of 10 percent votes in order to be treated as a political party in the parliament.
The credit for this victory goes to HDP’s charismatic leader Selahattin Demarirtas, fondly called “Kurdish Obama”, and the party’s principal women rights campaigner Figen Yuksedag. The HDP has presented itself as “genuinely Turkish party”, beyond the confines of Kurdish vote bank; won the ‘secular Turks, women and guys’ vote; and has promised to act as an “honest and honest opposition” in the parliament.
For the Kurds in Turkey the election victory has set off yet another wave of celebrations; the first was early this year when Kobane was taken back from the fighters of the Islamic State – though fact remains it became possible only when President Erdogan permitted the Turkish Kurds to go across the border and help the Syrian Kurds in that border town. Is then the HDP victory a new dawn in Turkish politics? It may not be, but possibly it may have a negative shadow on the Turkish economy. The very next day of election, on Monday, Turkey’s financial markets were ‘rattled, with lira tumbling to a record low against dollar’ and the ‘stock market fell by 8 percent’. But, hopefully, the outcome of Turkish election for Pakistan hopefully would not be negative, given that the relations between the two remain immune to government changes in both the countries – though at the personal level Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a role model for many present-day Islamic states.
The text appeared as editorial of the Business Recorder today.