Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has received a significant blow from the voters as it failed to gain the 276 seats required to continue its single-party rule for another term.
After 13 years in power, the AKP has drawn mounting criticism at home and abroad for its divisive, authoritarian and repressive policies.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP), banded together to become a political party for the first time rather than have independent candidates. Having managed to pass the 10% threshold, it has taken a number of seats from the AKP, therefore, a coalition government looks likely.
This result is also likely to block President Erdogan’s plans to alter the country’s constitution and turn the existing parliamentary system into a presidential one.
Many observers have said that a presidential system, without the necessary checks and balances would continue to erode democracy in the country as Erdogan would become increasingly powerful.
The unofficial results of the election, many feel, were more akin to a referendum in that it would decide the fate and political future of the country. Either it would become more authoritarian or it would deny President Erdogan the opportunity to accumulate even more personal power.
The indicator is that the AK Party received 40.6%, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) received 25.3%, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) received 16% while the HDP, which widened its appeal beyond its core Kurdish vote to centre-left and secularist segments disillusioned with Erdogan, received 12.7% of the nationwide vote. These percentages translate into 257 seats for the AK Party, 131 for the CHP, 83 for the MHP and 79 for the HDP.
To form a single-party government, a party must obtain at least 276 deputy seats, which represents an absolute majority in a Parliament comprising 550 seats. In the previous general elections held in June 2011, the AK Party won a resounding victory, receiving nearly 50% of the nationwide vote and winning 327 seats in the Parliament. The party’s vote in the local elections held last year was around 46%.
The voter turnout in this election was about 85%.
During the campaign process, opposition parties frequently criticised Erdogan’s rallies, saying that he openly violated Article 103 of the Constitution, which addresses the president’s oath of office and clearly states that the president will remain impartial while performing his duties.
Sunday’s vote was held at a time when the AK Party government and Erdogan had been attracting much criticism from both within and outside Turkey for pursing increasingly authoritarian policies, stifling dissent, pressing ahead with laws damaging judicial independence and curtailing press freedom; in other words rapidly moving Turkey away from the league of democratic countries governed by law.