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Opinion

Opinion: Turkish election - a disaster for Erdogan

For the first time since the AKP came into power in 2002, they lost their majority government. Turbulent times await domestic politics in Turkey, writes DW's Baha Güngör.

Turkish voters have voiced their democratic power: There were two obvious losers and one clear winner in Sunday's parliamentary elections. The losers were President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling religious and conservative party AKP, which supports him in every way. The Kurdish party HDP, on the other hand, has for the first time surpassed the 10-percent threshold required to obtain parliamentary representation and deservedly enters the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara.

The election result is a disaster for Erdogan. In his aspirations of turning Turkey into a presidential republic, Erdogan put all his eggs in one basket. He campaigned for the AKP throughout Turkey for weeks, all while he was violating his obligatory neutrality as president of the nation. Moreover, he did not shy away from audacious verbal attacks on opposing parties and critics, even going as far as defamation. Erdogan and his successor as the head of government and the AKP, Ahmet Davutoglu, were punished by the electorate, not least for misusing religion to attain political goals.

The AKP first won a landslide victory of 34 percent under Erdogan's leadership in 2002. They triumphed with 50 percent four years ago, while 52 percent of the vote swept Erdogan into the president's office a year ago. Now, he must accept the sharp drop to 40 percent. Erdogan's hopes have been shattered and all that remains is an illusion: He did not attain the two-thirds majority needed to allow him the sole power of introducing the presidential system.

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Baha Güngör heads DW's Turkey desk

This first-ever loss of the absolute majority will now force the AKP to form a coalition government with another party. If it doesn't, the party risks going into opposition, and an uncertain fate. For over 20 years, all the once powerful ruling Turkish parties have disappeared into oblivion after their chairmen rose to the presidency.

Tactical votes for the Kurdish HDP

The real winner, the Kurdish HDP, cannot afford to rest on its laurels for a single moment, and nor should it overestimate itself - otherwise it risks facing premature parliamentary elections in the autumn and new extra-parliamentary opposition. The two co-chairmen of the party, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag, must bear in mind that tactical votes from other parties, including the AKP, helped them achieve their success. Rejection of Erdogan's plan pervaded all echelons of society, thus preventing Erdogan from strengthening his grip on power and moving Turkey away from a pluralist democracy.

The HDP has to prove its claims of being a democratic party for all people and not just a political wing of the militant Kurdish organization PKK. After the deaths of 40,000 people in the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state since 1984, left-wing and right-wing nationalists alike are waiting for their chance to oust the HDP from government again. Right-wing extremists find it difficult to digest the fact that the HDP has won almost as many seats as the nationalist MHP. The HDP could also face fatal consequences if they used political tactics to help release Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader who has been in prison for over 16 years.

As much as they dislike the loss, Erdogan and the AKP must now swallow the bitter pill. At the same time, the three parties that had been part of the opposition until now must avoid giving off an air of smugness at all costs: They have merely benefited from the political arrogance of Erdogan and the AKP, who have just been reminded of their boundaries – for the time being.

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