Turkey elections: How Erdogan won and what’s next for Turkey

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Turkey’s President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with supporters. Credit: https://www.tccb.gov.tr

Omer Tekdemir, Research Associate & Associate Lecturer in Politics & IR, School of History, Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester

It seems that the result of the election, hence victory of R.T Erdogan, in Turkey once more proves that the most important elements and decisive factors are political stability, economic development, and populism, which are also effective tools for the right-wing parties in the global context.

It also shows that the opposition, the CHP-led ‘national alliance’ -with the IYI party and Felicity party (SP)- could not gain the peoples’ trust sufficiently and provide assurance for the country’s future. Although they claimed that the election (including pre-election process) was not fair, for example, the AKP as a government party used the state facilities in its favour, the entire mainstream media was under the AKP influence and HDP leader could not do any election campaign as he is in prison (still managed to pass the %10 threshold).

However, still, the majority of the electors did not take a risk to try a new candidate and thus one more time gave Erdogan a chance to re-arrange the economic and political issues.

Meanwhile, as a party, the AKP could not repeat its good performance (%42.56) and obtain the majority of the Parliament if one compares with the Erdogan individual triumph (%52.5). This result led the AKP to depend on the ultra-nationalist party, MHP (% 11.1) in order to make a law and having a kind of colation although they have established a ‘public alliance’ before the election.

Erdogan has been holding the power over the last 16 years, but this time it will be a difficult task for him to operate his policies. The recent progress highlights four main issues as a challenge; first three is related with the domestic politics, such as the ongoing economic crisis, long-standing Kurdish issue and the tension of politics within very polarised society. At least the half of the society demands the liberty and equality to all democratic principles, for instance, fair trial, lift the state of emergency and prevent the discrimination against various collective identities. On the other hand, the AKP foreign policy requires a lot of hard work to resolve disputes with regional and international states.

Erdogan’s soft speeches right after the election give a signal that he will refresh his aggressive and authoritarian politics by mentioning the importance of the democratisation of the country. Therefore, he can able to respond to his followers’ expectations and keeps hold the power.

Michael WuthrichAssistant Professor, Interim Director of Middle East Studies, University of Kansasä

I think there are two key results that have a critical impact on the election. The first big shock was the votes for MHP. I don’t think many saw that coming. It is hard to explain who would vote for MHP at this point—unless they are AKP voters teaching their own part a “safe” lesson.” If one imagines about 5-6% of the MHP vote being real MHP voters and the rest made up of the missing AKP vote, it might make sense. Seeing as how the AKP and MHP vote coincides closely with Erdogan’s total (with a small amount of MHP defection from the alliance), this is my best guess without making a closer examination. The idea that some voters who generally support the party and Erdogan but are not completely happy with how the AKP have been behaving with their existing blank check better explains the results than that the IYI party drew a high number of their votes from the AKP.

As was feared, the AKP was largely effective in suppressing the vote in the southeast (this also coincided with a mediocre campaign and missteps by the HDP). If Kurds and CHP supporters in the West didn’t come out to vote for HDP, Erdogan’s plan would have worked completely. He wasn’t prepared for non-HDP opposition voters in the West, voting for HDP to push them over the threshold. Outside of Urfa where they were caught (where the HDP had a small gain), the AKP did better in almost every province in the southeast than they had in the November 2015 election when the HDP had already regressed. It’s hard to believe that the difference was simply due to the well-documented moving of ballot boxes out of HDP strongholds. The AKP had already received a huge vote reward in the snap election of 2015, so it’s hard to look at the context and explain why the AKP would have done even better this time without some extra help. If plans like those that failed in Suruc in Urfa took place in these other provinces, they weren’t reported, to my knowledge, and we will probably never know for sure, but the targeting of HDP in particular was manifest throughout the campaign.

Erdogan managed to do it again. And he managed to do it in such a way that, if there was election fraud (as I briefly speculated above), it wasn’t detected. Thus, by factoring in the MHP vote, the victory seems plausible. Such a loss will completely deflate the opposition’s belief that Erdogan could be beaten at the ballot box. They had pulled out all the stops and still came up short. Erdogan got exactly what he wanted in the first round win for the presidency. Under a presidential system and a pre-planned alliance with the MHP, the fact that his party did not manage to get a majority of the seats is only a minor annoyance.

Natasha Ezrow, Professor, Department of Government, University of Essex

With the presidential elections, it should come as no surprise that Erdogan won.  He received 53% of the votes, with his closest rival only receiving 31%.  He now has more power than ever after the referendum last year.  There is also no PM position.  Erdogan ‘s power is not that much different than Putin’s power in Russia.  Though both leaders have genuine support, political opponents are cracked down upon, and both are dictatorships.  The elections offer some legitimacy to their regimes, but there is never any doubt in any of these elections of who the winner will be.

Umut Parmaksiz, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, TED University

The election results seems like a great victory for Erdoğan, and a big disappointment for the opposition.

This is because, despite most polls predicting a second round of presidential elections, Erdoğan was able get elected in the first round (52 percent for the presidential elections). Moreover, the ‘Cumhur İttifakı’ composed of AKP and Nationalist Party Movement (MHP) are predicted to have 53.6 percent of the parliamentary votes, which gives them around 340 MPs in the parliament -a comfortable margin to pass over the 300 MP threshold necessary to pass laws. These are both successes for AKP.

Yet AKP’s parliamentary votes have decreased from 49 percent to around 42 percent mark, and the party has lost its single party majority in the parliament. This means that while Erdoğan will be president, in order to pass laws he and AKP will have to rely on their election partner, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). This may prove difficult as Bahceli, the head of MHP, is notoriously unpredictable and may be difficult to manage by Erdoğan.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the election is the performance of the Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi). Most polls predicted that MHP would get around 5-9 percent of the votes, especially after a splinter group of popular MPs led by Meral Akşener was forced out of the MHP, and had formed İYİ Party to enter the elections. MHP’s performance has upset the opposition’s plans to pressure Erdoğan into compromising through parliamentary opposition.

It is difficult to ascertain as to what led to these results. Given Erdoğan’s election campaign strategy, which focused on security and stability, my feeling is that the AKP supporters have voted for what they believe will bring economic and political stability. The economy is not doing well. Inflation is rising and the stock market has lost a significant amount of its value since the call for early elections. This may have pushed many to vote for Erdoğan as president believing that he would be better at managing the economy and thwarting an economic crisis.  Yet these concerns over the economy, which may have helped him, are also the biggest issues that await him post elections.

Since Erdoğan’s call for snap elections, the Turkish lira has dramatically deprecated against the dollar and the euro, and the Turkish Central Bank had to significantly increase the interest rates to stem the demand for dollars. Moreover, international markets have lost their faith in Erdoğan. His statements during the campaign, that he would interfere with Central Bank’s interest rate decisions if he gets elected again, have rattled the international markets -the same markets that the Turkish economy depends on for balancing its current account deficit and funding growth. Hence, whether the AKP voters will get what they wished for, political and economic stability, is something we will have to wait and see.

Serhat GüvençProfessor of International Relations, Kadir Has University

The election results did not surprise me that much with one exception. I was not expecting National Action Party to make a such strong comeback. Back in November 2015, it lost a substantial number of its voters to Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. It seems that the party has managed to recover from that. Secondly, though a splinter party was formed shortly before elections, Nationalist Action Party managed to stop shift of it voters to that party. So it is the real winner. Turkey now has two nationalist parties in the Parliament tells a lot about voters’ main motivation. More than 20 percent of the Turkish electorate cast their votes with security concerns in mind. As long as Syria remains a source of insecurity and instability, particularly with its Kurdish-controlled pockets, nationalism will guide a sizable group of Turkish people.

Tayyip Erdoğan has won the presidential election by a clear majority. Although campaigning did not take place on a level field, the opposition candidate did not contest the validity of the results or legitimacy of his victory. However, Erdoğan’s own party fared worse than Erdoğan by around 10 %. In the political system in Turkey parliament’s role is very limited, for legislation, Erdoğan needs partners to pass them as his party has lost majority in the parliament.

Nikos Christofis, Adjunct Lecturer, Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki

1. “Erdoganism” prevailed in Turkey. After 16 years in power, the “story” of a party, i.e. the AKP, turned into the “story” of one man, i.e. Erdoğan; a process indeed that started long before the elections. From now on, unfortunately, the transformation of Turkey, politically, socially, economically, falls into the hands of one man, and one man alone. The application of the constitutional amendments that passed last April will help Erdoğan even more to proceed accordingly. From now on, all state powers, appointments of judges, etc. will pass to one man’s hands. This by itself, in any state, in any government is dangerous and frightening. I believe we will see a really authoritarian, autocratic, even fascist Turkey in the near future. Unfortunately accompanied with more persecutions, violence and suppression of anything different than the hegemonic narrative of the party-state of AKP. Turkey’s presidential elections has propelled Recep Tayyip Erdoğan into the foremost rank of global strongman leaders in the style of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Orban, and America’s Trump, just to mention few of the so many. I believe even darker ages are ahead for Turkey.

2. Erdoğan managed an electoral victory on two levels: a) He managed to unite three aspects of the traditional right-wing space in Turkey: Islamism, concervatism and nationalism, imbued with a heavy dosage of right-wing populism. B) I argued elsewhere that many of the voters that are fully compliant to a party, within the state of emergency, will vote in favor of the AKP just to preserve their survival. Furthermore, despite all the social and economic problems of the country, it seems that the people still believe in him as the preservation of what these people gained over the past years, exactly because of Erdoğan.

3. It is really interesting, and intriguing to see especially that second point as it played out. It was actually in many respects a struggle of “democracy vs. economic stability, or economic preservation of the living status”. The latter prevailed. This point becomes obvious I believe, due also to the polarization of the Turkish society, again because of Erdoğan’s himself and the party’s policy the past ten years or so, who is willing to rig the elections, bring guns to the electoral places, bully and threaten Kurds and other segments of the Turkish society who wished to vote for another party than the AKP, etc. etc. The list of mafia-like campaign on behalf of the AKP supports is documented already in numerous videos.

4. Thus, perhaps an important and mandatory question that we should be asking is, in what kind of democratic context, electoral context and environment, this electoral race took place? Because we cannot talk about free elections when threats, violence, rigging and suppression is taking place. These were not free elections, despite what Erdoğan himself stated after he was informed about his win. Besides, there is a whole discussion taking place at the moment, since last night actually, about the electoral procedure.

5. Another point that should be stressed is the Muharrem Ince candidacy and the CHP performance in the elections. Although, it came second, it managed to rejuvenate the people’s hopes. This is not something small, quite the contrary, and it should not be trivialized, especially considering the poor past electoral performances of the party. The people of Turkey for the first time in a few years, really believed that they had a chance to overthrow this rotten and deeply corrupted system and its President. This, to an outsider like me, shows a lot. The Turkish people are deeply democratic and they are willing to fight to the end to change this system and reinstate all the injustices the Erdoğan regime imposed against journalists, academics, civil servants, the Kurds, etc. However, CHP had a lot of space to cover, and while it also hoped for a better performance by the Good Party, this did not happen. It seems that the Good Party did not manage to take away votes from the MHP. Although there were many CHP voters who are not CHP supporters, the latter saw in Ince the next best possible alternative for things to change.

6. Within this environment I believe there were two winners, apart from the obvious one. First, is the MHP whose unexpected high electoral percentage raises some serious questions. While almost all gallops before the elections was giving the party 8-9%, it managed to get 11.1% and enter the parliament. Although we don’t know the reasons behind the party’s success, it seems that there is a combination of reasons: AKP voters voting for MHP in order to secure its entrance to the parliament, electoral fraud and clientelism. What is more now, is that although, according to the new system of Turkey, Erdoğan is the head of execution and he leads governance by himself through the state devices, like a prime minister but stays in the presidency office (palace) and represents the state, Bahceli will become the head of the majority of parliament, controlling the legislation. In other MHP has become Erdogan’s partner, although the latter did not wish that. This is another scary development having an outright fascist party regulating state affairs.

The second major winner cannot be other than the pro-Kurdish party of HDP, whose charismatic leader, although jailed for twenty months managed to inspire and mobilize the people of Turkey and make them trust the party and support it. This is a huge win for democracy, for pluralism, for the Left, and for a hope to return to normalization in Turkey in general. This is something that should be stressed, and not be underestimated despite all the efforts by the Turkish government. Additionally, it should be stressed as I truly believe that the entire censorship and accusations against the HDP and Demirtaş personally it was exactly because Erdoğan himself is, at least to a point, threatened by the rising popularity of the HDP and the hope for an alternative future than his for Turkey. Let us not forget, Erdoğan is not that powerful as some believe. Starting from the Gezi uprising to the referendum last April testify that!

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