Updated: Jul 15, 2021
By Alin Ozinian
Armenian Assembly Regional Analyst
The results of Turkey’s snap election on November 1 indicated that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained a Parliamentary majority with 49.5% of the vote. The Islamist-rooted AKP secured 317 seats in the Parliament, which is more than necessary to continue its single-party rule for another 4-year term.
Experts and analysts in Turkey and abroad believe that returning to a single-party government will boost Erdoğan’s power while deepening social and political divisions.
The results show that the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), kept its seats with 25%; the Nationalist Movement Party saw a 4% decline; and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) managed to reach the country’s 10% requirement in the election. Most analysts had expected AKP to fall short again, similar to the June elections, but surprisingly it picked up millions of votes at the expense of the nationalist MHP and pro-Kurdish HDP.
In the previous election, President Erdoğan conducted an election campaign across the country by launching rallies in favor of the AKP, a factor considered to have played into the decline of the AKP votes and support. In comparison, this time he preferred to remain behind the, a strategy that seems to have worked. Also, the rhetoric articulated by leading AKP figures, claiming that an environment of chaos and economic instability will prevail in the country if the AKP faces yet another defeat in the election, seems to have yielded the desired result.
When the AKP lost the majority in the June election, blame was put on the Kurds by claiming that they deceived the government during the Kurdish settlement process. The Kurdish settlement process was launched in 2012 with the aim of solving the Kurdish problem, prompting the AKP government to cease negotiations and re-launch a war in the country’s southeast region against the Kurds.
Despite showing authoritarian tendencies through repressive policies over the country’s dissenting voices, the AKP played the nationalism card by waging war against the country’s Kurds, reaching its goal to rule the country single-handedly.
Number-one Item on Turkey’s Agenda
AKP, however, seems to have failed to obtain the votes that will enable it to amend the constitution in line with President Erdoğan’s wishes to put in place a presidential system in Turkey that replaces the current parliamentary system, paving the way for a one-man rule.
Right after the elections, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called on Turkey’s political parties to agree on a new constitution. President Erdoğan has overtly supported the creation of a new constitution that would transition to a presidential system as the number-one item on the agenda of the newly elected legislature.
“Turkey’s need to solve the issue of a new constitution was one of the most important messages of Nov. 1. The nation is waiting for this,” Erdoğan said. This time he did not directly refer to his ambition to create an executive presidential system. Earlier the same day, presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Turkey was considering holding a referendum on changing to a presidential system.
Main Opposition Parties
The main opposition leader of Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu stated that the election results put further responsibility on the shoulders of the CHP. The CHP received 25.3 % of the national vote, earning 134 seats in Parliament.
“Today’s picture put more responsibility on the CHP. The change in the CHP is positive and it will continue decisively,” Kılıçdaroğlu said during a press conference. “Nobody should fear about Turkey’s future. It was the CHP who brought democracy to this country and it will be the CHP again who will strengthen it,” he added.
The leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas remarked that unfair election conditions and a deliberate policy of polarization by President Erdoğan explain their drop-off in this snap election.
The HDP was forced to cancel election rallies following two deadly attacks on pro-Kurdish gatherings since July. Television stations gave party representatives little air-time amid government attacks branding the party as the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“There wasn’t a fair or equal election…We were not able to lead an election campaign. We tried to protect our people against attacks,“ Demirtaş told reporters.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who denied claims that he stepped down as the MHP chairman following the election, said results do not change Turkey’s gloomy picture and he will work for the goals of the party until his last breath. MHP lost nearly 4 % of electoral support compared to the June election. “All cadres of our party are wholeheartedly at the helm of their jobs. May God…not put us away from our goals, principles and the consciousness of being a member of the Turkish nation,” Bahçeli said in a written statement.
Free and Fair Elections?
During the critically important general election and amid high social polarization, there were claims about possible attempts of vote rigging from various parts of the country. According to Turkish media reports, presiding ballot officers in some provinces, including İstanbul and Ankara, asked other ballot officers to sign blank documents on election results that were supposed to be filled in following the vote count.
In the last five months, the Turkish press was under growing pressure from the AKP government, with physical attacks on independent media outlets and journalists. Some newspapers and television channels were seized by state institutions only days before the elections, while almost all public and private broadcasters only served the AKP and the president.
President Erdoğan made a call on November 2 for the whole world to respect the country’s parliamentary election result, which gave the AKP he founded nearly 50 % of the votes. Speaking to reporters after praying at a mosque in Istanbul, Erdoğan said Turks had voted for stability on November 1 after the failure of coalition talks following the June vote.
HDP İstanbul Member of Parliament (MP) Garo Paylan, CHP İstanbul MP Selina Doğan, and AKP İstanbul MP Markar Esayan were elected to the parliament on June 7 and will remain in the parliament during the 26th term. There was speculation though that Esayan might not be elected, since he was the 14th candidate. However, with the increase in the AKP votes, he is in the parliament once again.
Alin Ozinian is the Regional Analyst at the Armenian Assembly of America. She is currently a Ph.D. Researcher at Yerevan State University’s Faculty of Political Sciences. Follow her on twitter at @AlinOzinian.