Monday 8 June 2015

HDP passes 10% election threshold as AKP loses its parliamentary majority


Turkey’s ruling AK Party has lost its single party majority, while the Kurdish-focussed HDP secures its first seats as a national party in the Turkish Parliament having broken through the 10% election barrier.

Turnout for yesterday’s General Election was 86.63% from a possible electorate of 53.7 million, including over one million first-time voters who have turned 18 since the last elections. With 99.99% of all ballot boxes counted, the polling results for the four main parties are as follows:

AKP % 40.86 – 258 MPs
CHP % 24.96 – 132 MPs
MHP % 16.29 – 80 MPs
HDP % 13.12 – 80 MPs

It means AKP is 18 seats short of an overall majority, spelling the end of its 13-year single-party rule. The election results also check the plans of former AKP leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to change the governance of Turkey into a Presidential system.

As HDP and other opposition party supporters celebrated, AKP government officials and supporters appeared glum as the news emerged that they had lost huge electoral support and seats in Parliament.

Turnout was 86.63% for Turkey's General Election. Photo: Milliyet

Winners and losers

While the political map of Turkey remains the yellow of AKP, which came first in most districts across the country, its popular vote has slipped by nearly 10%. That and a fourth party – HDP – entering Parliament have seen the number of AKP MPs tumble.

Since coming into power in 2002, AKP has seen its share of vote increase at each General Election. In 2011 the party, then headed by Erdoğan, secured 49.8% of the vote and won 327 seats. The party had seemed unstoppable, further cementing its place as Turkey’s governing party when Erdoğan took the presidential elections in the first round in 2014 with 52% of the vote. All this is set to change following the 2015 elections.

The main opposition party CHP did not perform as well as it had expected. Its support and number of MPs marginally decreased from its 2011 polling (down 3 seats and 1% votes) with some CHP voters backing HDP instead to ensure the smaller party would make it into Parliament. MHP enjoyed a 3% increase in its popular vote and its MPs leapt from 53 to 80.

In previous elections, Kurdish-focussed politicians had stood as independents to overcome the exceptionally high 10% national vote threshold. The 30 candidates who entered the last Parliament as independents then came together under a common political umbrella.

Selahattin Demirtaş at election rally on 24th May. Photo: NRT TV
Buoyed by the strong polling of HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş in last year’s presidential elections, where he received just under 10% of the vote, the party decided to stand nationwide. The gamble paid off as it now enters Parliament with 13% of the vote and 80 MPs.

MPs close to the Fetullah Gülen Movement (also known as Cemaat) saw its support base collapse in 2015. Former AKP MP Hakan Şükür and his fellow Cemaat colleagues Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Yakup Saygılı and Yurt Atayün all polled 1% or less, meaning they have no voice in the new Parliament.

Women and minority representation goes up

Turkey's 25th parliamentary election sees a rise in the number of women deputies elected, increasing from 79 in 2011 to 96 in 2015. HDP had made a big point of ensuring there was a nearly 50:50% gender split among its candidates, which has helped increase the overall numbers.

The most number of female deputies are in AKP with 41, followed by HDP with 31 female MPs, then CHP on 20, and finally MHP with a mere four out of its 80 MPs.

Another breakthrough in the 7th June elections is that Turkey’s Christian population will be represented by four deputies in the new Parliament. Three Armenian Turks have been voted in as MPs for Istanbul: Markar Esayan, a journalist for the pro-AKP daily Yeni Şafak, becomes an AKP deputy, lawyer Selina Doğan was elected for CHP, along with HDP’s Garo Paylan – a trainer on the Supreme Election Board. Lawyer Erol Dora, who is a member of Turkey’s Syriac community, is one of three HDP MPs elected in Mardin.
Selina Doğan, a Christian and of Armenian heritage, becomes a CHP deputy
Özcan Purçu becomes the first openly Roma candidate to enter Parliament. He won for CHP in Izmir province.

HDP’s two Yazidi heritage candidates, Felaknas Uca and Ali Atalan, are also elected as MPs. 

Major policy issues

Among the major policy battles in these elections were the economy. The opposition parties homed in on Turkey’s worsening economic climate, while the ruling party pointed to its successful track record since coming into office in 2002. All the main parties struck a mature note in the debate, stepping away from populism to promise key reforms and measures to put the Turkish economy back on a strong footing.

Other key issues in party manifestos included freedom of speech in Turkey, foreign policy (from the Cyprus Issue to EU entry, and the Syrian conflict), addressing the decades-old Kurdish Problem, reforming the judiciary and higher education systems, and changes to the governance of Turkey, with AKP backing a shift to a presidential system.

It follows President Erdoğan’s naked ambition to boost his powers following his election to the country’s top post last year. He has already broken with constitutional rules by chairing cabinet meetings and openly supporting AKP in the General Elections, while constantly slamming the opposition parties at public rallies. His non-partisan role and strident comments, along with numerous luxury purchases including a new opulent 1,150-room Presidential palace that cost Turkish taxpayers $615 million, has jarred with many voters.
President Erdoğan poses in AK Saray, his new 1,150-room palace that cost taxpayers $615 million. Photo: AFP/Getty
The scandals that have dogged AKP in recent years have also come to the fore during the elections. The failure of the government to try those implicated by major corruption allegations, including Erdoğan’s son and four Government Ministers, led to the party being dubbed “Thieving AKP” during the election campaign.

AKP received a further shock when leading Turkish daily Cumhuriyet published new evidence that seems to counter government claims that its intelligence agency sent aid to Turkmens: Cumhuriyet’s evidence shows arms in MIT-operated trucks being driven to Syrian Islamist opposition fighters. With the second anniversary of the Gezi Uprising falling during the election campaign, the government’s anti-democratic crackdowns were sharply back in focus too, particularly among Turkey’s first-time youth voters.

Overseas Turkish voters back AKP and HDP

Since 2012, Turkish citizens living abroad have also had the opportunity to vote in Turkey’s elections. This year, one in three of a possible 3 million people exercised this right, casting their vote at one of the 112 polling booths opened around the world and at Turkey’s customs points.

AKP fared well with ex-pat voters taking just under 50% of all votes cast, while HDP also polled strongly with 21%. CHP and MHP won 16.95% and 9.14% respectively.

AKP came first in territories such as France, Germany, Australia, North Cyprus, Norway, Algeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and several central Asian countries including Ozbekistan. HDP topped the polls in the UK, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, Poland, Italy and Japan. While its share of vote was lower than HDP, CHP won in multiple states including the USA, Eire, Spain, South Africa, Russia, China, and the Czech Republic.

Long queues formed outside Olympia, London as overseas voters cast their vote in the Turkish General Elections

Violence mars run-up to General Election

Tensions were high throughout the election campaign, with multiple violent clashes – some deadly – between opposing supporters.

HDP claims its members have suffered over 140 attacks in the run-up to the 2015 General Election, including two bomb blasts at its final rally in Diyarbakır on Friday, which killed two and wounded at least 200. Two days earlier, a 35-year-old driver of one of HDP’s campaign vehicles was shot dead in Bingol, in eastern Turkey, his bus raked with bullets.

Last month, two of HDP’s political bureaus in Adana and Mersin were also targeted by bombers, one exploding just moments before Selahattin Demirtaş was due to arrive for a pre-rally meeting.
Outside HDP’s political bureau in Adana, which was destroyed following a bomb blast in May
In May, AKP candidate Ramazan Demir was stabbed in the stomach while campaigning in the Aladağ district, in Adana. In February, Fırat Yılmaz Çakıroğlu, a youth leader for MHP, was stabbed to death by Kurdish militants during a fight on the Ege University campus.

Security was stepped up for Election Day with 300,000 police officers on duty supported by some 100,000 gendarmerie. 

Responses to the 2015 election results

The BBC’s Mark Lowen said: “In a volatile Middle East, Turkey matters greatly - and so the path it takes, the nature of its democracy and the leaders it produces, all have implications far beyond its borders.”

Trying to put on a brave face, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoğlu told his supporters that “Everyone should know that the AKP is the winner of this election…[that this party is] the backbone of Turkey."
PM Ahmet Davutoğlu tries to put on a brave face after his party loses parliamentary majority
HDP deputy and actor Sirri Sureyya Onder countered by saying: "This was a victory of democracy over political corruption... of peace over war."

His party co-leader Demirtaş told a news conference in Istanbul that, "The discussion of executive presidency and dictatorship have come to an end in Turkey with these elections."

With no outright winner, talk has turned to which parties will form a coalition government and whether an early general election will be needed to try and shift the power balance.

The election results have also prompted jitters on the stock exchange. The Turkish lira traded near a record lows on June 8 as nervous investors reacted to the prospects of a minority or coalition government.

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