Turkey’s biggest political party, the Justice and Development party (also known as AKP) received its lowest vote-share in 13 years in the country’s general elections held last Sunday. Although the AKP still has the biggest number of seats in parliament, the party has failed to achieve a majority, and will now have to hammer together a coalition of sorts.
The AKP had been led by its founder Recep Tayyip Erdoğan until he stepped down as party leader after being elected as Turkey’s president in 2014. He however continued to hold huge sway in partisan politics, launching a campaign on the behalf of the AKP to replace Turkey’s current parliamentary system with a presidential one.
Yet Erdoğan ambitions were dashed as results revealed that large numbers of voters had turned away from him, tired of his increasingly authoritarian methods – including his violent clampdown on protests in 2013 – and unwilling to support his seemingly self-interested push for more presidential powers.
Instead, many turned to the relatively new People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which has direct ties to the Kurdish separatist insurgency in southeast Turkey. The HDP crossed the 10% mark necessary for a party to enter parliament and now holds 80 out of 550 seats.
The HDP had successfully framed itself as an inclusive, leftist party seeking to represent the interests of all Turks while giving the oft-marginalised Kurds a voice in politics. It is the first party in Turkey to introduce a 50% quota for women, and also fielded the nation’s first openly gay candidate.
“The HDP represents the diversity of the minorities in Turkey and a real pluralist democracy,” Laura Batalla, secretary general of Friends of Turkey, a unit attached to the European Parliament, told the Washington Post.
“Turks and Kurds are well ahead of the political leaders of the country, and they have a lot of expectations of the democratic process that they have well bought into. … It shows that Turkey is going through an important political maturing process, and that an increasing number of people are interested in a pluralistic society,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Turkey, told the Guardian.
The president will now have to give a mandate to the leader of the largest party, after which there is a period of 45 days in which a government has to be formed. It is difficult to predict what will happen next; coalitions will be difficult as parties are seen as having little in common. Yet for the AKP to proceed as a minority government would leave the government vulnerable to collapse.
If no government is formed within 45 days, new elections will be called.