CESRAN Blog, Husrev Tabak, Turkey and Neighbourhood

CESRAN Reflections on Turkey’s June 7 Parliamentary Elections by Dr. Hüsrev Tabak

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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.

The results of the June 7 general elections show that almost 1/5 of AKP voters changed their minds and voted for HDP and MHP, both of which are ethno-nationalist political parties. For the AKP this is a political defeat on one hand, yet on the other it confirms that the AKP was a unifying political party that was able  –as has been frequently uttered by the party- to bring diverse voices of the community together. In this sense, in addition to what Rahman Dag suggested earlier, what triggered this move towards ethnic-oriented parties is the revival of ethnic nationalism in the country, which is an unfortunate and adverse result of the Opening Process. For the Kurds, the AKP`s willingness to solve the Kurdish Problem is a question which arose far before the elections, during Roboski, later in Kobane, and finally by the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan`s recent retreat on the issue by denying the presence of a Kurdish problem. This state of mind occurred in both parties (among the Kurds and AKP cadres) despite the introduction of unimagined reforms regarding Kurdish rights throughout the last 13 years of the AKP rule. The reforms include the introduction of Kurdish language education in schools, the opening of Kurdish language and culture departments in universities, allowing campaigning in Kurdish language during election campaigns, the opening of a state television channel broadcasting in Kurdish language, and so on. For the AKP cadres, the motive behind this shift rests in what was happening to the majority of Turkish people in response to this Kurdish opening. The President and the AKP cadres were closely monitoring  public opinion in the country and observing an increase in ethno-nationalism among Turkish people fed by a belief that `the PKK, a terrorist organisation, brought Turkey to its knees via the opening process`.

Image: Daily Sabah

Image: Daily Sabah

Solving a minority problem has always been a tough job for governments, and such a process most of the time requires the socialization of a majority community into a certain mind-set, suggesting an equal status with the minority community. This however is not an instant process and requires long-standing patience on the part of both the minority and majority parties.  Equality of status in legal and practical manners may suggest, for the majority community, loss of certain rights and privileges and a betrayal to the `martyrs` in a fight against minority politics. This process of `majority socialization` has failed in the country, at least for now, and the result is an increase in Turkish ethno-nationalist votes.

The composition of the Turkish parliament in terms of seats since 2002. Image: Anadolu Agency

The composition of the Turkish parliament in terms of seats since 2002. Image: Anadolu Agency

Bearing these facts in mind, the question of what will happen next is a relevant and necessary one. On the one hand, Kurdish nationalism  is gaining more ground among those who  previously did not believe in the HDP  but preferred rather to support the AKP, and on the other hand Turkish nationalism is gaining more ground among  those AKP voters who used to ignore the MHP`s nationalist calls for the sake of unity. This revival of ethnic nationalism will unfortunately not leave a favourable legacy to the Peace Process. Regardless of who forms the government, either an AKP-MHP coalition or an AKP-HDP coalition, the Peace Process will be influenced more by rival and revived ethnic nationalisms and will continue under their shadow.

The number of votes received by each party since 2002. Image: Anadolu Agency

The number of votes received by each party since 2002. Image: Anadolu Agency

Total seats gained by each party since 2002. Image: Anadolu Agency

Total seats gained by each party since 2002. Image: Anadolu Agency

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