By: Shahin Dadkhah
Undoubtedly, HDP or People’s Democratic Party was the main victor of 2015 elections in Turkey, where it could pass the 10 percent electoral threshold successfuly and entered into parliament as the first pro-Kurdish party in the history of Republic of Turkey . It could get 80 seats in Turkey’s parliamentthat that was a surprise even for the leaders of this party. In the former elections, Kurdish candidates were struggling as independent candidates not as a party. HDP’s victory has changed political calculations in Ankara and has forced incumbent AKP to look for a coalition government. Interestingly, some supporters of AKP and the main oppposition party CHP especially in big cities like Istanbul casted their vote for HDP in hope of consolidating democratization on the one hand and denouncing President Erdogan’s autocratic attitudes on the other.Since HDP was able to get votes from all of Turkey rather than Kurdish provinces, then it is argued that it is not an ethnic affiliated party and can represent a considerable portion of people. More than 6 million people supported HDP in this general elections while AKP lost three million votes comparing to 2011 elections.
Analyzing Election Outcomes
Turkish ekectroal system is proportional representative and independent candidacy is accepted legally. The electoral threshold is 10 percent which is uncommon in many consolidated democracies in Europe and elsewhere. It was designed to prevent pro-Kurdish parties victory in the aftermath of 1980 coup d’etat. Contrary to its democratic ambitions, AKP did not amend constitution to change this threshold because of its interests. More than 46 million voters casted their voted in the 2015 general elections which was one of highes outcomes in the recent decades. Political polarization was the the main reason behind this very high turnout. HDP’s decision to run as a party, Erdogan’s rhetorics against opposition parties and his insistance on changing the nature of political system, attacking HDP’s electoral meetings in some cities, pan-Turkist groups anxiety about rising Kurdish nationalism, leftist groups support for HDP, Gulen-Erdogan conflict in the last years, financial scandal of some AKP memebers and especially role of Erdogan’s boy in it and opposition parties unwritten agreement to avoid condemning each other and focusing on criticizing AKP helped political polarization in the eve of parliamentary elections. Different ethnic, social ,religious and political communities tried to have their voice in this vital elections. As political scientists say it become a zero-sum game foe some parties and especially HDP and AKP.
While two main parties, AKP and CHP lost some of their seats in the parliment, nationalist MHP and pro-Kurdish HDP could increase their seats comparing to latest general elections .AKP could gain 41 per cent of votes which translated into 258 of 550 seats in parliament, 18 seats lesser than the minimum neccessary 276 confidence votes to establish a uni-party government. More than 18 million people across Turkey and mainly from central Anatolia voted for AKP and in 54 cities it was the first winning party. AKP biggest lose was in Southeast Kurdish region where it HDP defeated it and could gain the absolute majority of votes. For instance, HDP could gain more than 80 per cent of ballots in Diyarbakir which is the biggest consituency in Kurdish cities. Calling HDP as the political wing of PKK and underestimating the importance of Kurdish question alienated some pro-AKP kurds in Eastern Anatolia.
CHP’s political base is in the western and southwestern parts of Turkey which are more open to Kemalist secular ideology. People’s Republican Party or CHP could get 25 per cent of votes and 132 seats in the parliament and protected its second and main oppposition party position. More than eleven and half million people prefered Kemalist CHP party which is a center-left party and regards itself as the main pro-Kemalist party in Turkey. CHP’s votes decreased in some big cities and even in Southwest as its traditional voting base. Private competitions within the party and its rigid discourse were the main reasons for CHP’s inability to increase its votes.
Nationalist MHP party could increase its votes to more than seven and half million votes mainly due to the threat of Kurdish nationalism which is considered as the main threat for Turkish territorial integrity by many nationalists. MHP could get 16.3 per cent of votes which translated into 80 seats in the parliament because of vote counting formula. This is while HDP could gain 80 seats by 13 per cent of votes. This is because of MHP’s inability to get majority in many cities. It was the first winning party only in one consitituency.
As aformentioned above, HDP gained more than six million votes in Turkey which equates to 80 seats in Turkish parliament. Not only Kurds but some other minorities and even Turk ethnics supported HDP to gain 13.11 per cent of votes because they regarded it as the only party which can prevent AKP majority by passing 10 per cent electoral threshold.
Analyzing AKP Position
Although Erdogan’s support for AKP strenghthened its position among lower social groups, it alienated some professionals and urban middle classes. According to Turkish Constitution President should be a neutral political actor since he or she represents all people rather than a party. When people elected Erdogan as the first directly elected president, he tried to increase his official and legal power and then supported transition into presidential system instead of the incumbent parliamentarian system.Erdogan pledged to change constitution and the form of political system if AKP could gain supermajority but many peopl worried about his ambition to become an autocrat. Then it is true that one of the main messages of this election was to reject presidential system. It is true that Erdogan’s intervention weakened AKP in the 2015 general elections, but his charisma and popularity especially among low strata and conservative groups is undeniable. Without any doubt, Erdogan has done many things for Turkey and its economy and considering this fact people elected him as president. Even for the time being he is the most popular leader in Turkey. At the same time , people are worried about remeregence of autocracy in Turkey. MHP’s precondition to make a coaltion with AKP is Erdogan’s loyality to the Constitution and putting aside intervention in the affairs of next administration. Then Prime Minister Davutoglu is in a very complicated sitution in the aftermath of elections.While opposition parties demand his independency from the President, he is aware about Erdogan’s authority within AKP. Opposition parties know that AKP would decline without Erdogan and therefore insist on the neccessity of his ditance from AKP.
No doubt that AKP is the most popular and powerful party in the country and 2015 elections results prove this, though HDP’s enter into parliament as a party prevented it from gaining majority of seats . It is interesting to know that AKP could win the majority in 2002 by 37 per cent of all votes. In this sense, its popularity has not decreased and even has increasd comparativly. Crisis within oposition parties is a great opporunity for AKP. Non of this parties are able to get more than 30 per cent of votes and they have not considerable common interests to cooperate with each other, their only communality is to have a common rival , that is Justice and Development Party. Thus AKP is in better situation to win the possible early elections if the administration is not established in 45 days after elections.This is whyopposition parties are against eraly elections.Instead they demand AKP to be independent of Erdogan to pave the way for coalition.
Ankara-Tehran Relations in the Shadow of 2015 Elections
Iran and Turkey are among rare regional countries which have the most stable bordes in the region and have not any territorial dispute. Both of them are large and populated countries and need each other in terms of security and economic development.Simultenously, they are rival to each other and cannot ignore empowerment of other side. In terms of scholars of international relations they are interdependent in terms of security and economic growth. Iran regards Turkey as a window towards the Western technology and Ankara sees Iran as a big market for exporting its productions and increasing its economic power. Then instability in Iran or Turkey is harmful for both sides and 1990s experience is a good evidence. At that time, Turkish army violated Iran’s territory in pursuing PKK members and this escalated tension between two sides.
Turkey’s policy towards Syria alienated Tehran as the main supporter of Bashar Asad regime. Whie Ankara helps Syrian opposition groups in hope of toppling down Asad regime,Tehran supports Asad. Iran perceived AKP as an Islamic party and welcomed its victory in the 2002 parliamentary elections and after that they moved towards betterment of bilaterl relations. They witnessed warm and close relations since AKP’s rise to power in 2002 till 2011 and emergence of riots in the Arab World. Although they try to prevent exacerbation of bilateral ties, it is clear that their political realtions are not as warm as past.AKP’s failure in getting majority in 2015 elections is a threat and opportunity for Iran at the same time. Although it may force AKP and Erdogan to revise their policy towards syria, a weak and unstable government in Turkey may increase domestic instability which is not beneficial for Tehran-Ankara relations.
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