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Opinion

Opinion: New era, same concerns

Terror and fear of instability gave Turkey's Justice and Development Party an absolute majority in Sunday's election. But, as Seda Serdar writes, it won't necessarily be a smooth ride for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won an absolute majority on Sunday. While the country was focusing on a coalition, what happened in the past five months that brought the AKP back to its feet?

The answer is terror and fear of instability. From Suruc to Ankara, the country fell hostage to terror attacks. Not only did Turkey's long-lasting nightmare, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), come back into the picture, but the war in neighboring Syria also spilled over, making the "Islamic State" (IS) a major concern all over the country.

The transition government, actually a continuation of the previous AKP rule, gathered the support of grieving families and nationalist voters with its hawkish strategy. During the campaign, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continuously stated that only the rule of a single party would bring stability to the country and end terror. The sudden rise of terrorist activities, therefore, was the biggest element in securing the AKP's strong comeback.

Seda Serdar Kommentarbild App

Seda Serdar

Winners and losers

Besides the obvious champion, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) could also be considered among the winners. After Sunday's vote, it became the third biggest party in parliament, pushing the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to fourth place. Even though HDP landed in third place, it lost more than 20 seats. Various statements by HDP members in support of Kurdish fighters in Syria over the past five months did not help at the ballot box.

The AKP's strategy of continuously putting the HDP on the spot and criticizing them for not distancing themselves from the PKK, a group considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, also played to HDP's disadvantage. Nevertheless, its voters stayed loyal and helped the party stay afloat and pass the 10 percent threshold.

The MHP ended up being the biggest loser. Conservative voters, who MHP leader Devlet Bahceli was counting on, let him down. They were not only intrigued by the AKP's military action against the PKK, but also saw Bahceli as Mr. No, as someone who showed no sign of cooperation or desire for a coalition after the last election on June 7. Even though Bahceli had good reasons, such as not wanting to let last December's government corruption scandal go unpunished, it seems voters were more concerned with shutting down the PKK than with bringing criminals to justice.

As for the Republican People's Party (CHP), the result was a disappointment. The party managed to slightly increase its share of the vote, but that certainly wasn't an indication of success. The CHP failed to mobilize the masses; it received votes from its loyal supporters, but wasn't able to convince its skeptics.

Still room for opposition

When it comes to democratic rights, freedom of speech and efforts to rebuild an independent judiciary system, the results are alarming. Erdogan supporters gathered outside the AKP party building after poll results were announced, shouting "Aydin Dogan hear our voice!" - referring to the head of the Dogan Media Group, which has been under pressure from the government - an indication that media critical of AKP have difficult days ahead of them.

But even though the AKP won an absolute majority it wasn't able to secure 330 seats in parliament, which would have given the party a free hand to take a constitutional amendment to referendum. Now, even though the topic isn't off the table, it won't be as smooth a ride as the AKP had hoped.

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