5 surprising results of Turkey’s election
1) Seismic vote shift shakes the ruling party
Compared to the 2011 general elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost more than 2.5 million votes in the June 7 elections, while the Republican People’s Party (CHP) remained around the same level, with some of its votes going to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) increased its votes by 2 million. Kurdish problem-focused independent candidates had received 2.8 million votes in 2011, but the HDP managed to get over 6 million votes.
So, simply put, all the other major parties got stronger while the ruling party got weaker in all provinces, particularly in metropolises. The CHP broke the domination of the AKP in the Black Sea region by taking the province of Zonguldak and dealt it significant blows in the Aegean. The MHP hit the AKP in Central Anatolian and Black Sea provinces, while the HDP grabbed five southeastern and eastern provinces from the ruling party’s hands.
2) The New(est) Turkey
The new Turkish parliament is the culmination of the people's demands since the 2013 Gezi Park protests; a better democracy, pluralism, checks & balances and de-centralism, all of which contradict Erdoğan’s presidential ambitions.
As such, there will be 97 women deputies in the 550-seat assembly (18 percent), which is an all-time high. They are joined by four Christians, while the very first Roma and Yazidi community deputies have also been elected.
3) Better representation
Due to the 10 percent national election threshold, which is the highest in the world, the amount of unrepresented votes has traditionally been higher in Turkey. In fact, the AKP could be able to form a strong single party government with only 34 percent of the votes in 2002, because 45 percent of the votes had gone to parties which failed to reach the threshold.
With the HDP’s passing of the threshold in the June 7 elections, one of the best Turkish parliaments in terms of representation has been created. More importantly, it happened with an 84 percent overall voter turnout.
Now, more than 95 percent of the votes will be represented in the new parliament. This is the highest ratio since the current system was formed after the 1980 military coup that undermined pluralism and encouraged bipartisanism. From 1983 to 2011, the ratio of parliamentary representation had swung between 41 percent and 86 percent.
4) The rise of the left
The opposition parties’ economy-focused campaigns, coupled with several populist demands, made the race an away game for the AKP, which is more skilled in ideologically-driven politics.
The two left-wing parties, the CHP and the HDP, received more than 38 percent of the votes. Even the Turkish nationalist MHP flirted with the Alevi votes, which are traditionally left-wing. Even if you ignore the blue collar and leftist votes within the AKP, these votes have brought about the greatest number of left-wing seats in the parliament since 1980.
5) Invalid votes
This is probably the most surprising number about the 2015 elections in Turkey. More than 1.3 million votes cast were deemed invalid, More than 1.3 million votes cast were deemed invalid, marking a roughly 30 percent increase from recent elections. This number is even higher than the fifth-largest party, Saadet, which received some 942,000 votes. It is also higher than all votes cast in the latest elections in Greek Cyprus, Estonia and Montenegro combined.
Some of these invalid votes could have been cast in protest with a similar attitude to the case of a voter in İzmir who stamped his forehead to declare that he had no faith in any party. Some others could be confused due to the awful design of the ballot papers, which put independent candidates right below the parties, leading many citizens to stamp it twice, hence rendering the vote invalid.
But why have all these surprising changes happened now?
The AKP’s numbers have actually been in a downward spiral since at least September 2014. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s aggressive rhetoric apparently alienated many of its voters at a time the economy in the country was worsening.
Furthermore, the AKP failed to solve its existential dilemma stemming from the fact that it was engaging in the Kurdish peace bid as a party, which relies on both the Turkish nationalist and Kurdish conservative votes.
When the AKP started to oscillate between two extremes, many voters perceived it as insincere and changed their votes at the earliest opportunity they saw an alternative at a time of harder economic times.
So not only did its failures in major political issues damage the AKP during its campaign but so too did its bad choices in creating and shaping polemics that contradicted the realities of daily life.
All these factors indicate that harder, not easier, times lie ahead for Turkey’s ruling party, as it is now marching into terra incognita of coalitions and minority governments after years of getting so used to majoritarianism and unilateralism.