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'Turkish vote guided by fear'

Hilal Köylü / poNovember 2, 2015

Turkey's AKP has reclaimed power with 49.4 percent of the vote. According to Turkish experts, this result was influenced by the fear of terrorism - and doubts about coalition governments.

Supporters of Erdogan's conservative AKP celebrating the party's victory at the Turkish elections in Istanbul (Photo: EPA)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Toprak

The success of Turkish President Erdogan's AKP was the big surprise of the November 1 election. This time, Turkey's conservative Justice and Development Party garnered enough votes to head a single-party government. After the AKP lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years at the June 7 election, it won 49.4 percent of the vote this time and succeeded in sending 316 deputies to parliament.

With an increase of 8.5 percent since June 7, the AKP's result proved the pre-election polls wrong. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) garnered slightly more votes than in June - without achieving a major success. With 25.4 percent of the vote, the CHP gained 134 seats in parliament.

The Nationalist Action Party (MHP) had the most significant losses compared to the previous election. The number of their seats in parliament was reduced from 80 to 41 after the party lost two million votes. The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), which succeeded in passing the ten percent election threshold for the first time this year, was also able to enter parliament on November 1. However, its 13 percent margin fell to 10.7 percent. The party lost nearly one million votes.

'Increased polarization and hate speech'

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who tweeted "Praise God" following the election results, travelled from his hometown of Konya to Ankara for a victory speech. "Today is the day that the old Turkey has been buried under a seven-story building," Davutoglu said. He underlined that the AKP party would embrace all of Turkey. "Nobody should fear discrimination," he said, vowing to embark on the course of democratic reform. "We will do away with all sorts of polarization, conflict and tension in Turkey," he stated. At the same time, he called on the other political parties to support the AKP in changing the constitution to strengthen the role of the president in Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu (Photo: Reuters)
Turkish PM Davutoğlu: 'The old Turkey has been buried'Image: Reuters

However, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu warned: "Power turning into pressure is dangerous to the highest degree," emphasizing that Turkey did not witness a regular election process. At the same time, HDP leaders deplored that Turkish citizens became the victims of terrorism in the time leading up to the election.

Following all the Turkish pollsters' failure to predict the result, the owner of the KONDA pollster, Tarhan Erdem, stated: "We were wrong, and we are going to find out why." Turkey was unable to make progress on democratic reforms, advance the economy and solve the Kurdish question ahead of the election, he underlined. While voters were ready to endorse a coalition on June 7, they decided that it would be the wrong choice this time.

Erdem expects a time of "increased polarization and hate speech" after this election. "However, perhaps the AKP will come to its senses and Erdogan will sink back into the legal boundaries of his role. Everything depends on how the relationship between Davutoglu and Erdogan will turn out," Erdem said. Criticizing the opposition parties, he argued that several resignations might be necessary because of their disappointing results.

Fear of instability

"The results surprised everyone. Turkish voters were afraid of political instability - and of the possibility of a coalition. They think that stability can only be achieved by a single-party government," said Sinan Ülgen from the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Research.

"MHP voters were angry at the party's leader, Devlet Bahceli, and turned toward the AKP. The HDP also lost votes because they were not able to distance themselves sufficiently from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) [considered a terrorist organization by Turkey]," Ülgen argued. In his opinion, the election result has strengthened Erdogan's position, paving the way for a strong presidency.

Hüseyin Bagci, chairman for International Relations at the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), concluded that Turkish voters were afraid of a coalition, but also of terrorism and a weak economy. "Their vote was guided by fear," he criticized.

'Like a joke'

"The HDP lost more than a million votes. MHP's vote fell by four percentage points. It's like a joke - and all of these votes went to the AKP. [MHP leader] Bahceli was unable to see reality as it is. He destroyed his party with his refusal to compromise," Bagci said.

"Kemal Kilicdaroglu [the leader of the CHP] is a good person, but he lacks charisma. [HDP co-leader] Selahattin Demirtas is very charismatic and sympathetic, but his HDP party is downgrading this," Bagci said of the other opposition leaders.

In his opinion, Davutoglu's victory speech signified a "new era" for the AKP. "Unlike Erdogan, Davutoglu spoke softly and warmly. He talked about democracy and reassurance. It seems that Davutoglu understands that the Turks need to be redeemed from fear. Only time will tell how successful he can be compared to Erdogan."