The end of Erdoğan’s rise in Turkey

The end of Erdoğan’s rise in Turkey

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) lost its parliamentary majority in the June 7 election - despite holding onto its number one position. 

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu looks set to harvest around 260 seats for the AK Parti in the 550-seat Turkish parliament, failing to fulfil the 276 seats needed to form a single-party government and needing support from other parties to secure a vote of confidence.

There are two other main outcomes of the AK Parti’s vote share dropping from 50 percent in the 2011 election to 41 percent yesterday:

1- Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan can bid farewell to his target of a new constitution based on a strong presidential model with weaker checks and balances. Despite his ambitious campaign parallel to Davutoğlu’s during the election, putting his credibility on the line, Turkish voters have clearly rejected that plan. The drop in the AK Parti’s votes is a defeat for Erdoğan’s desire to shift the regime from a parliamentary to a presidential one. It is possible to conclude that Turkish voters opted for the continuation of the parliamentary system.

2- The Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) surpassed the unfair 10 percent threshold by 2 percent and got into parliament with a strong presence. The HDP managed to do this by transforming itself from an exclusively pro-Kurdish party into a party in favor of rights and freedoms for all in Turkey and gaining support from Turkish leftists and liberals by promising that if it gets into parliament it would not bargain with the AK Parti over Erdoğan’s presidency. The result will give the HDP a stronger hand in the Kurdish peace process talks, if those talks continue.

It is still not clear what will happen next, but a three-party coalition between the opposition parties - the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the HDP - is not very likely, as all three have previously denied the possibility.

A coalition of the AK Parti with any of the other parties could be possible, on the condition that Erdoğan’s presidential system is excluded. Also, a minority AK Parti government could be on the cards, with opposition deputies giving a vote of confidence to such a government in order to weaken it further.

It is also possible to speculate whether Erdoğan and the AK Parti have been victims of their own ambition when keeping the 10 percent threshold, a remnant of the military regime after 1980, in the name of “political stability.” If they had reduced it to 5 or even 7 percent, yes they would again lose the chance for Erdoğan’s presidential system, but they could have kept their parliamentary majority. Because of the complicated calculation system that the 10 percent threshold brings with it, the AK Parti has lost its parliamentary majority. Because it insisted on an unfair system in pursuit of grander ambitions, the AK Parti lost its majority despite winning 42 percent of the votes. In contrast, back in 2002 it was able to win a big majority with only 34 percent of the votes.

Some may come to see this result as the curse of the 10 percent threshold, but whatever is the case June 7 clearly marked the end of Erdoğan’s rise in Turkish politics.