Big win for AKP in Turkey, but future is uncertain

Big win for AKP in Turkey, but future is uncertain
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In a shock to many pollsters, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained its parliamentary majority, lost in the June elections, with a vote of 49.5% and 317 seats in Turkey’s parliament.

The results of the election allowed the ruling AKP to secure its majority without entering a grand coalition with the CHP or MHP.

The big losers of the night were the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) with 11.9% and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) with 10.7%, both of which barely scraped past the 10% threshold needed for political parties to enter government.

The HDP’s ability to pass the 10% threshold, however, removed the possibility of the AKP receiving a total of 370 seats and gaining a super-majority.

The AKP had campaigned on a platform of bringing stability to the country after what was seen as an escalation of violence after the June 1st election. The resurgence of the conflict with the Kurdish Nationalist group by the AKP against the PKK saw the country’s Southeast ripped apart by violence and bloodshed.

This also came at a time when the AKP had been clamping down on freedom of speech within Turkey in its effort to combat what it deems “the Parallel state”— a reference to the Hizmat movement organized by Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish scholar, former Imam and one-time ally of the AKP residing in the US.

The purge against the “parallel state” has seen journalists and bloggers jailed for criticizing the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and also the seizing of the Ipek Media outlet by police and government-appointed trustees.

Opposition media continues to be silenced, and all criticisms directed at the AKP and Erdoğan are portrayed in pro-government media as a conspiracy by foreign powers and this parallel state.

An increasing politicized judicial system and administration means that the rule of law is no longer applicable in Turkey. According to the EU progress report, Turkey is gradually shifting towards authoritarianism and has been backsliding on civil liberties since 2014.

However, the result on November 1st confirmed that the majority of the population would prefer a single-party government. Turkey has had a complicated history with coalition governments, and the possibility of further instability drove conservative voters, including traditional Kurds, back to voting for the AKP (in June, there was a significant flow of these votes to the HDP).

Although there were some statistical anomalies in the result and minor cases of fraud, there has been no indication of widespread electoral fraud. Still, the elections were not conducted in a free or fair environment. ISIS attacks in Ankara and the Kurdish region and a lack of a strong opposition led to a successful win for the AKP.

What is next for Turkey after these results?

In the post-election period, the AKP has reignited the debate on a new constitution that would grant further executive powers to the office of the President.

In a draft AKP constitution proposed in 2013, the new President would have powers far surpassing any other President and executive authority in the world. Many opposition members believe that such a move is an attempt by the AKP and Erdoğan to create a strong centralized authoritarian regime under the guidance of the President and AKP.

Government ministers have continued to threaten opposition media outlets, and there have been systematic raids on the offices of Zaman and Hurriyet.

Economically, the return to stability is going to be a bit more difficult. The AKP is divided between those who are economic pragmatists and populists, each vying for a central position in the new cabinet. Its primary objective is how to stop the slowdown of Turkey’s $800 billion economy while maintaining the promises outlined in the election campaign, such as raising the minimum wage.

Increased uncertainty, the seizing of private companies and interference in the Central Bank makes investors wary. There was a bump in the Turkish lira and a rallying of local assets after the AKP success in the election, but this has quickly dissipated and the Turkish lira is back above 2.90 to the US dollar.

Continued dominance and interference by Erdoğan with financial authorities does not present a positive forecast for Turkey’s credit rating, foreign investment opportunities and long-term economic outlook.

Regarding Turkey’s foreign policy, there doesn’t seem to be any significant change. However, its top priorities remain stopping the YPG Kurdish forces from controlling the border area between Syria and Turkey. There has been a discussion of finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis through elections and moving away from its obstinate stance of removing Assad.

There will be pressure on the AKP from Europe, Russia, and the US to focus more on ISIS, especially after the incidents in Lebanon and Paris, and for it to prepare itself as the region heats up with potential boots on the ground.

There is talk of reopening peace negotiations with the PKK, but after the violence that has plagued the Southeast, it seems very unlikely that both parties will want to come back to the table. Domestically, it will be tough for the AKP to try to reconcile the political differences and divisions that it has championed in its polarizing campaign in the run-up to the election.

The results of the Turkish election demonstrated that the politics of fear and intimidation are effective. All in all, neither a single party nor a strong centralized authoritarian presidency will bring stability to Turkey, economically or politically.

About Author

Iain MacGillivray

Iain MacGillivray is a GRI Commissioning Editor and an Independent Political Risk Analyst who focuses on Australian, European, and Middle Eastern Politics. He has worked as a Senior Academic Tutor in Middle Eastern Politics at the University of Melbourne and has been a freelance journalist for many years. Iain currently holds a Masters of International Relations from the Melbourne School of Government, University of Melbourne and is currently undertaking a Masters of Middle East Studies at Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) in Ankara, Turkey.