CESRAN Reflections on Turkey’s June 7 Parliamentary Elections by Dr. Rahman Dağ
From 2002 onwards, the AK party won a majority in every Turkish election. Erdoğan always won comfortably, whether in national elections, local votes, or the more recent presidential one. However, the party lost its parliamentary majority and saw its share of the vote fall in the June 7 Parliamentary elections.
In my view, this election will be a turning point in the history of Turkey in terms of proving that the people, regardless of their distinctive ethnic origins and ideologies, have become the major determinant of the political administration of the country. From this perspective, that will be one of the most significant benefits passed on by the AKP governments to the nation. To start analysing the election in this way might seem to be contradictory to the results, as the AK party lost almost 10 percent of votes and a considerable amount of parliamentary seats. Yet, on the contrary, it is actually a solid indication of the above argument. In these terms, all the electors who voted in this election should be proud of the results.
I would argue that there are three fundamental reasons why the result came out as they did: the peace process, the party’s lost connection with its electorate and the polarization of the people of Turkey into pro-AKP and anti-AKP positions, or more accurately into pro-Erdogan and anti-Erdogan positions.
With regard to the first point , efforts to keep the peace process stable until the election, and implying that unilateral steps forward would follow after the election, caused resentments among both Turkish and Kurdish voters whose political preferences went to the MHP (pro-Turkish nationalist, Nationalist Action Party) and to the HDP (pro-Kurdish, People’s Democracy Party), respectively. As Davutoğlu suggested when he was chosen as president of the AK party, the cost of going backward from the peace process would be much more harmful than going forward. This recognised the influence of stability in the peace process on voters, but failed to appreciate the necessity to move forward or to show progress. Because, the way the peace process attracts support from voters depends on concrete results. In this manner stability, when it needs development, created a vague atmosphere which reduced people’s trust in the AK Party’s intention to solve the Kurdish question. Compared to this ambiguous position, the substantial efforts of the HDP during the election campaign and the MHP’s critical stance against the peace process seemed more preferable to certain interested voters.
The next reason would be the determination process of MP candidates. Based on Party regulations, all candidates should be chosen in accordance with preliminary elections at provincial and district level. Seemingly, the first stage of this process has been carried out. But the results of these preliminary elections and the final MP candidate lists were dramatically different, which caused disturbance among the Party’s own electoral base. Due to this practical reality, some of the candidates resigned and their supporters changed their preference from the AK Party to alternate political parties. With my experience and knowledge it can be said that, in so doing, the AK Party sided with capital holders rather than candidates who have a trusted connection with electorates. It is hard to distinguish who is responsible for changing the names of candidates from those chosen by the electorate to capital holders. Whoever or whatever administrative position in the AK Party was responsible, this is the main reason why the AK Party distanced itself from the people, reducing the overall percentage of the vote obtained by the ruling party.
Last but not least, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s harsh criticism of opposition parties during meetings brought to a peak the gradually accumulated anti-Erdogan stance among supporters of the opposition parties. . If he had been doing this as the president of the AK party it would not have changed the almost 10 percent of voters who switched to opposition parties. However, acting as if he was AK party leader whilst officially being the President of Turkey did not suit the political culture of this country, in which a parliamentary system has been in operation since the formation of the nation. This might be mostly related to the political system discussion but previously accumulated resentments among opposition groups have obviously been channelled to the personality of the president.
This short analysis of the 2015 general election appears to be focusing on why the AK Party lost a considerable amount of electoral support rather than on how the opposition parties increased their support.
On this problematic issue, I personally can say that most of the critics are centred on who is in power. In the case of a coalition government formed by opposition parties then the analysis would be centred on them.
It would be unethical to end any analysis of the 2015 general election without mentioning the remarkable electoral success of the HDP. Thanks to their highly- inclusive electoral campaigning the result was that the increased number of Kurdish and socialist democrats’ votes transcended the 10 percent threshold. Consequently, gaining eight seats in the parliament will provide an opportunity to make effective politics in the way they like. Approximately half of their electoral support (coming from ethnic Kurds) will expect to see a serious contribution to the peace process and the rest will expect to see an effective challenge to the AK party as opposition party in parliament. They have actually met the expectation of some by preventing the AK party from gaining enough seats to form a single party government.
As mentioned at the beginning, whatever comes out in this new picture of politics, in general it is tremendously important that the people of Turkey feel that they are the major determinant of who is going to be the government so that no external intervention will be successful – only the PEOPLE of TURKEY.