Turkey’s Elections: Will It Be More of the Same?

    Mohammed Ayoob

    Politics, Europe

    A man waves a Turkish flag at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, during a Youth and Sports Day celebration in Ankara, Turkey

    The elections have clearly demonstrated a deep polarization within Turkey.

    Preliminary results show that President Recep Erdogan of Turkey has been re-elected in the first round with 52.6 percent of the votes. His closest rival, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), polled 30.6 percent. The opposition’s strategy of setting up several candidates in the first round who could appeal to different constituencies was aimed at forcing Erdogan to contest the second round by denying him a majority in the first. This would have detracted from Erdogan’s image of invincibility; it also would have helped the opposition to improve the morale of its supporters and to consolidate its votes in the second round, thus increasing the possibility of defeating Erdogan. This strategy has obviously failed and Erdogan is now in a position to act for the next four years (and possibly more) with almost unrestrained authority with all executive powers concentrated in his office and with the National Assembly’s oversight reduced drastically under the new constitution.

    The outcome of the simultaneous parliamentary elections has been mixed with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which polled 42.6 percent of the votes, winning 295 seats and six short of a clear majority. With its alliance partner—the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)—it controls 344 seats, giving the government a comfortable majority. If the coalition holds together, as it is likely to, Erdogan can be assured of a docile legislature that would allow him to implement much of his domestic program and follow a foreign policy of his choosing.

    However, one thing is clear. Erdogan would not have been elected in the first round had it not been for his alliance with the MHP whose supporters voted for him in large numbers. He is also dependent upon the MHP for his parliamentary majority. In this sense, the MHP is the real victor in these elections and is bound to demand its pound of flesh sooner or later. While Erdogan himself has of late been pandering to the ultra-nationalist constituency to mobilize their support for his presidential bid, dependence on the MHP is bound to curb his freedom—especially on the Kurdish issue if he decides to change course and begin negotiations with Kurdish representatives again. This means that the Kurdish insurgency will continue indefinitely into the future.

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