What will happen on June 7?
In just a week, Turkey will have its general elections. Most Turks know the details of this ambitious race, but some outsiders seem a bit confused. So, I decided to give you a brief 101 today.
All polls show that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will win as usual, but this time things might not be as bright for them as before. Polls suggest that the party has lost quite a significant sum from its heydays in 2011-2014, when its votes were over 50 percent. Now, the estimates are between 39 to 44 percent of the votes. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) is expected to follow with some 26-28 percent, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is expected to follow with some 15-18 percent.
Besides these percentages, the definitive matter is the number of seats. Turkey’s parliament has 550 seats, and how many of them will be taken by the AKP is a crucial question. Here are three basic options:
1) AKP below 276 seats: In order to form yet another one-party government, the AKP needs to win half of the seats in the Turkish Parliament plus one, which makes 276 seats. If the AKP cannot win that many seats, it will still be the most powerful party, but not powerful enough to form a government of its own. That would lead Turkey to a coalition government, which has been unseen since 2002, in which the AKP will have to ally with another party to form a government. (At this stage, opposition parties say that they would never think of a coalition with the AKP; but they could begin have to second thoughts on the morning of June 8.)
2) AKP between 276 to 330 seats: In this outcome, the AKP will safely form a government of its own under the prime ministry of Ahmet Davutoğlu. But it will fall short of having enough seats to be able to change the constitution. (For that, one needs at least 3/5th of the parliament’s vote, which makes 330 seats.) In that case, we will see yet another AKP government within Turkey’s current parliamentary political system. But the system, and the constitution, will probably not change.
3) AKP over 330 seats: This will be the decisive victory for the AKP – and especially President Tayyip Erdoğan. The AKP will form a stable government and also will lose no time drafting a new constitution that will introduce the very centralized and overbearing “presidential system” that Erdoğan is eager to establish.
These are the three basic options, and many impartial observers seem to think that outcome two – the AKP between 276 and 330 seats – is most likely at this point.
However, there is a big unknown that makes all calculations uncertain: The fate of the fourth largest party in Turkish politics: the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP). This time, the HDP did something that previous Kurdish parties never did: Challenge the 10 percent electoral threshold. This means that they will either win big, by gaining at least 50 seats in parliament. Or they will lose big, as almost all of those seats will go to the AKP.
That is why many AKP-wary people who would not normally vote for the HDP will vote for them strategically this time. We will all see whether this will be helpful enough.
Finally: What about ballot safety? Can the AKP rig the ballots to boost its votes? The opposition is very worried about that, but this might be an exaggerated worry at this point. For decades, the election system has been quite transparent, and it is hard to introduce fraud into it. At least we have to wait for the morning of June 8 to start complaining about that.