Armenian Assembly Analysis of Turkey’s Election

By Alin Ozinian

Armenian Assembly Regional Analyst

The results
of Turkey’s snap election on November 1 indicated that the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP) regained a Parliamentary majority with 49.5% of the
vote. The Islamist-rooted AKP secured 317 seats in the Parliament, which is
more than necessary to continue its single-party rule for another 4-year term.

Experts and
analysts in Turkey and abroad believe that returning to a single-party
government will boost Erdoğan’s power while deepening social and political
divisions.

The results show
that the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), kept its seats
with 25%; the Nationalist Movement Party saw a 4% decline; and the pro-Kurdish
Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) managed to reach the country’s 10% requirement
in the election. Most analysts had expected AKP to fall short again, similar to
the June elections, but surprisingly it picked up millions of votes at the
expense of the nationalist MHP and pro-Kurdish HDP

In the
previous election, President Erdoğan conducted an election campaign across the
country by launching rallies in favor of the AKP, a factor considered to have
played into the decline of the AKP votes and support. In comparison, this time
he preferred to remain behind the, a strategy that seems to have worked. Also,
the rhetoric articulated by leading AKP figures, claiming that an environment
of chaos and economic instability will prevail in the country if the AKP faces
yet another defeat in the election, seems to have yielded the desired result.

When the AKP
lost the majority in the June election, blame was put on the Kurds by claiming
that they deceived the government during the Kurdish settlement process. The
Kurdish settlement process was launched in 2012 with the aim of solving the
Kurdish problem, prompting the AKP government to cease negotiations and re-launch
a war in the country’s southeast region against the Kurds.

Despite
showing authoritarian tendencies through repressive policies over the country’s
dissenting voices, the AKP played the nationalism card by waging war against
the country’s Kurds, reaching its goal to rule the country single-handedly.

Number-one Item on Turkey’s Agenda

AKP,
however, seems to have failed to obtain the votes that will enable it to amend
the constitution in line with President Erdoğan’s wishes to put in place a
presidential system in Turkey that replaces the current parliamentary system,
paving the way for a one-man rule.

Right after
the elections, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called on Turkey’s political
parties to agree on a new constitution. President Erdoğan has overtly supported
the creation of a new constitution that would transition to a presidential
system as the number-one item on the agenda of the newly elected legislature.

“Turkey’s
need to solve the issue of a new constitution was one of the most important messages
of Nov. 1. The nation is waiting for this,” Erdoğan said. This time he did not
directly refer to his ambition to create an executive presidential system. Earlier
the same day, presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Turkey was
considering holding a referendum on changing to a presidential system.

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Main Opposition Parties

The main
opposition leader of Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu stated
that the election results put further responsibility on the shoulders of the
CHP. The CHP received 25.3 % of the national vote, earning 134 seats in
Parliament.

“Today’s
picture put more responsibility on the CHP. The change in the CHP is positive and
it will continue decisively,” Kılıçdaroğlu said during a press conference. “Nobody
should fear about Turkey’s future. It was the CHP who brought democracy to this
country and it will be the CHP again who will strengthen it,” he added.

The leader
of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas
remarked that unfair election conditions and a deliberate policy of
polarization by President Erdoğan explain their drop-off in this snap election.

The HDP was forced to cancel election rallies
following two deadly attacks on pro-Kurdish gatherings since July. Television
stations gave party representatives little air-time amid government attacks
branding the party as the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“There wasn’t a fair or equal election…We were not able to lead an election
campaign. We tried to protect our people against attacks,“ Demirtaş told
reporters
.

Nationalist
Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who denied claims that he stepped
down as the MHP chairman following the election, said results do not change
Turkey’s gloomy picture and he will work for the goals of the party until his
last breath. MHP lost nearly 4 % of electoral support compared to the June
election. “All cadres of our party are wholeheartedly at the helm of their jobs.
May God…not put us away from our goals, principles and the consciousness of
being a member of the Turkish nation,” Bahçeli said in a written statement.

Free and Fair Elections?

During the
critically important general election and amid high social polarization, there
were claims about possible attempts of vote rigging from various parts of the
country. According to Turkish media reports, presiding ballot officers in some
provinces, including İstanbul and Ankara, asked other ballot officers to sign
blank documents on election results that were supposed to be filled in
following the vote count.

In the last
five months, the Turkish press was under growing pressure from the AKP government,
with physical attacks on independent media outlets and journalists. Some
newspapers and television channels were seized by state institutions only days
before the elections, while almost all public and private broadcasters only
served the AKP and the president.

President
Erdoğan made a call on November 2 for the whole world to respect the country’s
parliamentary election result, which gave the AKP he founded nearly 50 % of the
votes. Speaking to reporters after praying at a mosque in Istanbul, Erdoğan
said Turks had voted for stability on November 1 after the failure of coalition
talks following the June vote.

Three Armenian Candidates in the Parliament

HDP İstanbul
Member of Parliament (MP) Garo Paylan, CHP İstanbul MP Selina Doğan, and AKP
İstanbul MP Markar Esayan were elected to the parliament on June 7 and will
remain in the parliament during the 26th term. There was speculation though
that Esayan might not be elected, since he was the 14th candidate. However,
with the increase in the AKP votes, he is in the parliament once again.

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Alin Ozinian is the Regional Analyst at the
Armenian Assembly of America. She is currently a Ph.D. Researcher at Yerevan
State University’s Faculty of Political Sciences. Follow her on twitter at
@AlinOzinian.

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
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