EU should hail Turkey poll results

EU should hail Turkey poll results

Turkey successfully concluded parliamentary elections on June 7 within a spirit of democratic maturity, despite attempts at provocations, especially in southeastern Anatolia against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). 

One of the most important things to emerge from the elections is the high turnout. Some 84 percent of around 54 million voters went to polling stations to cast their votes, and this figure was considerably high in the Southeastern Anatolian region. This shows that elections are still seen as the main venue for the Turkish people to reflect their wills for the future of the country. 

In line with polls that showed that 60 percent of Turkish people are against the presidential system, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) saw its vote tally drop from 50 to 41 percent. Turkish people also underlined that they do not want to grant a single-party government to the AKP after 13 years of rule, pushing the parties to compromise instead. Therefore, the main losers of these are President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who aggressively campaigned for elections, and the AKP. 

Although it led a successful election campaign, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) also lost votes, going from 26 to 25 percent with estimates that around 3 percent of its votes went to the HDP. However, at a moment when the ruling party’s votes declined nine points, the main opposition’s performance is far from being satisfactory. The main concern for the CHP is that more of its votes could shift to the HDP, especially in western parts of the country. 

The Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) slow and unexciting election campaign increased its votes by three points over the 2011 figure. The nationalist party benefited from the AKP-led Kurdish peace process, and thus collected votes from those fleeing the ruling party.  

The real winner of the elections is no doubt the HDP, which succeeded in crossing the 10 percent election threshold with an unexpected 13 percent performance. Around 6 percent of Turkish people voted for the party, which was the leading party in 14 provinces in Southeast Anatolia. The HDP was the third party in Istanbul, surpassing the MHP. HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş even further increased his popularity in Turkish society with his sense of humor and smiles. 

Turkish public opinion moved in a very sophisticated manner to help the HDP pass the national threshold and show that it respects democratic norms, while delivering a very important message to Erdoğan and the AKP.

Another winner of the elections is civil society, which perfectly coordinated itself to keep nearly 180,000 ballot boxes under control for the integrity of the elections. Vote and Beyond (Oy ve Ötesi) was the architect of this initiative, which was endorsed by thousands of volunteers, bar associations and other nongovernmental organizations.  

The June 7 election is a clear indication that Turks will not give up of their demand for a first-class democracy to be crowned with expanding freedoms. It is also encouraging that the next government will take stalled full membership negotiations with the EU as one of its priorities to give momentum to the talks. 

In this framework, it’s the EU’s responsibility to hail the elections results and the will of the Turkish public opinion by opening negotiation chapters, such as the monetary union. That would be an important and timely move on the EU’s part to show that it still believes in the democratic institutions of Turkey that can withstand any sort of undemocratic trend, even authoritarianism.