Turkey in Context: The Impact and Outcome of AK Regaining Majority

Posted on the 18th November 2015 by Aakanksha, Communications Coordinator

Turkish-election

Only five months after the last election, and with polls predicting a repeat of last June’s hung parliament, Racep Tayyip Erdogan achieved the impossible: his party, the ruling Islamic Conservative Justice and Development (AK), regained its outright majority in Turkey’s latest legislative election.

Elected as president in 2014, M. Erdogan was seemingly not satisfied with last June’s outcome; it was the first time since 2002 that his party lost the absolute majority and was forced to enter coalition, a prospect the president was not willing to accept, subsequently calling for a new election with the stated aim of modifying the Constitution. However, obtaining 49% of the total casted votes and 320 of the 550 seats in the Turkish Parliament, Erdogan will not be entitled to hold a referendum on constitutional change aimed at granting him an executive presidency, and thus renouncing to the current parliamentary system. Falling short of the 400 necessary seats to do so, the opposition, fiercely opposed to such a radical change, will indeed be delighted.

The AK admittedly benefited from an unusually strong media presence, a determining force in the election’s outcome. Last October, M. Erdogan enjoyed 29 hours of live broadcast on the TRT, the national public broadcaster, whilst his rivals, starting with the CHP who received a respectable five hours, right down to the Kurdish HDP who was entitled a mere eighteen minutes, were not handed the same exposure.

With the Kurds and Turks becoming evermore divided since Erdogan’s decision to bomb both the Islamic State and radical Kurdish militants in its fierce campaign on terror, tensions have been particularly high between both groups.

Having scored 10.5% of the votes, only just surpassing the 10% threshold required to be represented in parliament, the pro-Kurdish HDP will provide a sigh of relief to the Kurdish population, despite losing 3 points compared to June’s outcome. Undoubtedly affected by the bombings last October in Ankara, which caused 102 casualties including many Kurds, Selahattin Demirtas, the co-president of the pro-Kurdish party, decried the unjust nature of the election and renounced campaign events.

M. Erdogan’s significant personal victory will have important consequences, be it domestically or on foreign policy.

Resolving the Kurdish question will be far from easy, especially with the ongoing fighting going on in the South-East. As Erdogan is committed to fighting the Kurdish rebels, both in Turkey and Iraq, negotiations are highly unlikely to resume with the PKK, the left-leaning Kurdish nationalist organisation. Additionally, the prospects of the Kurdish conflict are gloomy, as their rebel forces will become more likely to prioritise armed conflict above peaceful political outcomes. Likewise, Erdogan will struggle to appease the conflicting relationship he has developed with Western leaders since bombing rebel Kurdish forces. Indeed, the Kurds are the American-led coalition’s principle ally on the ground, but this alliance is disturbing the Turkish foreign policy strategists, whose main fear is the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region, otherwise known as Kurdistan.

What’s more, the election result will have heavy consequences upon the development of the Syrian crisis, with Turkey increasingly becoming a key player as a result of the large flows of refugees seeking to reach Europe (a recorded two million have fled to Turkey). Indeed, Turkey, a member of NATO, will now find itself in a commanding position when negotiating with European partners upon the issue, and, despite an authoritarian approach to governance, will strengthen its influence with regards to potential adhesion to the European Union.

By Louis Maret, Communications Team Member

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