It is going to be a tough election

It is going to be a tough election

All political parties entering Turkey’s parliamentary elections on June 7 submitted their candidate lists to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) on April 7.

Preparing those lists was a tough job for all parties. As it can be seen from the lists, it is going to be a tough election. There are a few indicators that suggest this:

1- The Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has submitted its candidates under its own banner. This is a change from having independent candidates join together under parliament’s roof after being elected, in order to overcome the unfair 10 percent election threshold, as the HDP’s predecessor parties used to do. Challenging the threshold was something promised months ago by HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş. If they manage to do so, even if other opposition parties are not able to increase their votes, it would be practically impossible for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) alone to secure the majority needed to vote on a new constitution based on a strong presidential model with weak checks-and-balances, as President Tayyip Erdoğan desires. This factor is actually the most exciting part of the Turkish elections, since it is about a systemic change in the country. The HDP is targeting votes from socialist and liberal Turks who used to vote for minor parties, as well as conservative Kurds who vote for the AK Parti.

2- The social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has carried out the most transparent candidate listing method of all parties. Its leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, decided to take hold primary elections - a practice that has been forgotten by all parties in Turkey for a number of years - for some two-thirds of the CHP’s candidates. The rest were determined by Kılıçdaroğlu himself through consultations with the CHP party assembly, which left some executive committee members and MPs out of the candidate list, (the renewal rate seems to be just over 60 percent). There are interesting names among the new names, such as Selina Uzunöz Doğan, an Armenian-Turk, as the joint candidate of the non-Muslim minorities’ foundation for their properties. The CHP has also allocated all number one positions in key big cities to female candidates, as a positive-discrimination act, in order to have as many women MPs as possible in the next term. The CHP is aiming to increase its votes from 25-26 percent to 30 percent.

3- The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) seemed to have the most opaque and conservative method among all parties in determining its candidates. Its leader, Devlet Bahçeli, has kept all 15 executive committee members as candidates in key places. The MHP has some surprise names in its list for the June 7 elections, such as Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the former Secretary General of the Islamic Cooperation Organization (OIC) and also the candidate supported by the MHP in the 2014 presidential elections, together with the CHP. Durmuş Yılmaz, the ex-Central Bank governor and the economic advisor of former president Abdullah Gül, is also on the MHP list. With such center-right names on its list, the MHP aims to regain some of its grassroots taken by the AK Parti, as well as by using reactions against the government’s ongoing peace process dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The MHP will be happy to maintain around 15 percent of the votes.

4- The candidate-determining process within the AK Parti was so problematic and secretive that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu reportedly asked all members of the committee to take an oath to tell anybody about their work. The reason for this were the media reports about who had more influence on the list: Davutoğlu as the chairman of the party, or Erdoğan as the natural leader of it, despite constitutional restrictions. It seems that the party is going to renew nearly half of its MPs in parliament. Erdoğan has demanded a landslide win for the AK Parti in order to secure his super-presidency model through a constitutional change after the elections. There is little doubt the AK Parti is going to be the winning party in the June 7 elections, but it will be very difficult for AK Parti to secure a constitutional majority, especially if the HDP gets into parliament. The AK Parti’s reign as a single-party government will only be in jeopardy if the HDP exceeds the 10 percent hurdle and the CHP and the MHP are able to significantly increase their votes.

The parties are expected to start their election campaigns by the end of this week.