In Turkish elections: Ağa Selahattin Dethrones “Sultan” Tayyip

In Turkish elections: Ağa Selahattin Dethrones “Sultan” Tayyip
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Turkey’s Democratic elections show that the HDP opposition can win support, but not enough to oust the AKParti, the party President Erdogan founded. But now the HDP is a more formidable voice in defining Turkey’s Democratic future. The vote suggests Turkish voters may want a multi-party coalition leadership

By Abbdenour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi

Ankara, Turkey — In order to get a better idea of why the AK Parti (AKP) lost in the Turkish legislative election June 7th, one should look at who won. At least half of the electorate in the southeast and east of the country who were previously leaning toward the Justice and Development Party (AKP) voted in favor of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).

The Kurds, setting aside their largely conservative and religious values, this time preferred a party standing for Kurdish ethnic identity and rights. This shift may be attributed to several fronts: the AKParti’s inability to comprehend their frustration over the Kobani/Ain el-Arab crisis last fall; President Erdoğan’s rhetorical statement in the campaign discourse that “there is no Kurdish question,” and finally, waving the Holy Koran about in his campaign rallies and thus dramatically driving away a high percentage of the Kurdish community from voting for his candidates.

Furthermore, it created a strong anti-Erdoğan sentiment among the Kurdish youth and academicians across the country, fueled by mistakes made by the party leaders when picking its parliamentarian candidates in the southeastern region of the country. For instance, in Mardin, they parachuted in a candidate from an Ankara think-tank, a strategic-thinking analyst, who just happened to be born in the province.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Although the AKParti took a political risk in initiating the Kurdish reconciliation/peace process, the HDP benefited from those initiatives and gained votes from a considerable majority of Kurds. In addition, the MHP (far-right nationalist party) re-gained votes from Turkish nationalists who previously voted for the AKParti by using the fear factor stemming from the peace talks as a strategy in their campaign. This is ironic by all means.

But as one Middle Eastern diplomat put it regarding the diplomatic corps movements in Ankara, “Turkey is a good school of diplomacy.” However, I can add, it’s also an excellent school for political rhetoric.

Nonetheless, by passing the 10 percent threshold, the HDP and its co-chairman, Mr. Demirtaş, have arrived at a favorable juncture to demonstrate the party’s efficiency in the name of all Kurds and Turks. Thus the Kurds now have a party that is politically integrated and socially belongs to Turkey. Certainly it seems the vote shift which began with Selahattin Demirtaş’ presidential bid last summer has secured a credible challenger to President Erdoğan.

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Though the AKParti had a comfortable Kurdish reservoir of votes numbering about 4 million, this number decreased to 1.5 million last Sunday, which means five of the nine points comprising the Kurdish vote went to the HDP. The co-chaired leadership secured the support of “lefty” secularists, Kurdish conservatives, the urban Allawite minority, and the AKParti’s deceived sympathizers to harvest 80 seats in the newly-elected legislative assembly.

Politically the main reason behind the AKParti’s failure to secure a parliamentary majority was the strong exhibition from the HDP (People’s Democratic Party). Having got 13 percent of the vote, the party was simply the most successful contender in Sunday’s June 7th, election.

While the HDP played a critical role in reducing the AKParti from a comfortable majority, enjoyed for 13 years by President Erdoğan, the party does not hold the key to coalition scenarios. Categorical opposition to the AKParti may have been enough to place a single-party government out of reach, but there’s a good chance that it won’t be enough to form a new government. A possible scenario mentioned during the campaign which surfaced again earlier this week predicted a CHP-MHP coalition which HDP will be observing closely, anticipating a kingmaker.

Miting of AKP

Miting of AKP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, it will be difficult for the MHP to invest in a coalition government that must force the HDP leadership to relinquish its struggle for ideological imperatives. Initially, the HDP leaders distanced themselves from an eventual coalition with the AKParti, but in the last few days, everybody has added some water to his tea or ayran. Things are smoothing out, and Turkey is likely headed for a government based on an AKP-CHP coalition.

Additionally, the AKParti, although failing to emerge with a majority in the assembly, has proven it has the capability to reform itself, win next elections and govern the country.

The 21.4 million votes the AKParti received in 2011 decreased to 19 million in this election. When the shift in voting is considered, the party lost roughly 3.5 million votes, and this number corresponds to the votes that went to the HDP and the MHP. For the final two points lost, one should look at who did not vote. Specifically, the urban and highly-educated AKParti supporters who belong to the new generation were not satisfied with the Party’s performance over the last few years.

It seems evident that a part of them did not approve of President Erdoğan’s attitude and comportment toward his political opponent during the campaign which put the government in the co-driver seat, reasoning that the shared humility of the AKParti could be properly managed and certainly would help to avoid political humiliation.  Also, they were further incensed by the face that President Erdoğan used every means available to campaign for the election.

They felt the elements of legitimacy were becoming questionable and he should stayed out of the campaign.

Subsequently on election day, the voters sent a clear message to their politicians calling for a multi-party coalition over a single-party government, at least for now. The Justice and Development Party did in fact win the contest with 40.9 percent of the vote, but it failed to secure a majority in Parliament and that is the important point. The Turkish people are protecting their young democracy by calling for a political system that is not a rhetorical presidential system, nor a patron system which emerged from the 1980 coup d’état, but one which can withstand a degree of pluralism and represent all the Turkish people.

At the end of the day, President Erdoğan and his party came away wounded, but not knocked out as their opponents would wish.

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Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi:
- France correspondent for The Arab Daily News.
- Editor-in-Chief
رئيس تحرير مجلة بريد الأريج
- Political consultant at IMPR a Think-Tank based in Ankara, Turkey.
- Member at the European Observatory for Arabic Language Teaching based in Paris, France.
- Affiliated with Sociology of Islam Journal and contributor at Middle East Studies / International Studies, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Center, Portland State University in Portland, OR.

EDUCATION: Diplôme des Études Approfondies (DEA) in Political Science from Toulouse University I, France. Master’s degree in Law from Algiers University, Algeria.
Abdennour Toumi
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