A snap analysis of Turkey’s snap election
Towards midnight on June 24, President Tayyip Erdoğan announced his re-election “according to unofficial” results, amid protests from opposition parties saying that the vote count was not over. At that time Erdoğan’s vote was 52.5 percent with a downward potential, but he was sure about his win as the first president to rule Turkey with the brand new constitution, giving all executive powers to the president. However, he said his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) missed its target of winning a parliamentary majority, which will have to be maintained through the continuation of his alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli.
Erdoğan’s main rival Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 30.8 percent of the votes by the time the president made his speech, according to state-run Anadolu Agency’s reports. İnce and other opposition figures accused Anadolu Agency of “manipulating” the vote count in order to deter ballot box monitors from keeping a close eye on the counting. Still, the CHP, chaired by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was only able to get 22.7 percent of the votes by that time, down from its 25 percent performance in the most recent November 2015 elections.
Meral Akşener, leader of the newly founded right-wing İYİ (Good) Party failed to show the expected performance but did manage to get into parliament partly due to her alliance with Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP.
The Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) managed to get 11.2 percent of the votes, helped by support from non-HDP voters. The HDP’s jailed presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş got 8.2 percent support.
The June 2018 elections marked the beginning of a new era in Turkey’s administrative system, moving to an executive presidential one, at a time when President Erdoğan and the government are under criticism from the outside world for taking steps back from democratic gains, as well as because of foreign policy discrepancies with Western allies. As he has done in previous elections, Erdoğan said in his first speech that he wanted to leave the rifts behind and promised a better democracy for the people.
It is possible to draw the following initial conclusions about the dual presidential and parliamentary elections:
- Erdoğan’s tactic of allying with Bahçeli proved a success. The June 24 election proved that without the MHP, Erdoğan could not be re-elected and the AK Parti could lose its majority in parliament.
- Erdoğan’s AK Parti might have to work with the MHP as a coalition partner in parliament if he wants to work together in legislative work as well. Alternatively, if Erdoğan wants to part ways with the MHP he has to attract the necessary number of MPs from other parties in order to grab 300 seats in the 600-seat parliament or has to ally with another party in parliament.
- Bahçeli proved Akşener and others wrong by showing that the MHP is not finished yet. The MHP’s resilience was one of the two surprises of this election. The MHP has become a key player in parliament.
- Kılıçdaroğlu’s tactic to lend 15 CHP deputies to Meral Akşener’s İYİ (Good) Party to help her run as a presidential candidate and later ally with İYİ Party did not bring success to the CHP. Akşener attracted votes from the CHP, but not that much from the AK Parti, and less than it hoped from the MHP, from which she had defected to establish İYİ Party. Akşener failed as a promising leader but nevertheless won seats in the parliament, mainly thanks to her alliance with Kılıçdaroğlu.
- On the other hand, Kılıçdaroğlu’s tactic to show his rival in the party, Muharrem İnce, as a presidential candidate proved relative success. İnce demonstrated that with his charisma and popularity that he has the capability to raise the CHP’s vote potential from around 25 percent to 30. The political performance of İnce was the other surprise of the June 24 elections.
- But the CHP got some 7 percent lower than its candidate İnce. The CHP apparently lost votes not only to the İYİ Party but also to the HDP, not because its voters politically support the HDP but because they wanted the HDP to exceed the 10 percent national threshold and get into parliament in order to reduce AK Parti seats in parliament. It is likely that the election results might shake the CHP, forcing it to an emergency congress which might elect İnce as party chair in order to have a chance in the March 2019 municipal elections.
- The HDP is back in parliament thanks to the social democratic and liberal votes given to them, otherwise it may have not been possible for them to be represented in parliament. Now could be a time for the HDP to draw a clear line between itself and the terror acts of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) despite sharing the same grassroots for the sake of a better democracy.