By Dorian Jones
The Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party has been reelected for an unprecedented third consecutive term. The party increased its votes securing just over 50% of the ballots cast. But the prime minister fell well short of his goal of a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
Supporters of the Justice and Development party began their celebration early. As soon as results started to come through, it was clear the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was set for a big victory. His party, campaigning on a booming economy, secured just over 50% of the vote, an improvement on its 2007 landslide victory. Mr. Erdogan, addressing his supporters at his party headquarters in Ankara, reached out to the whole country.
He said “This is a victory for Turkey. This is a victory for democracy, for stability, for peace. This is a victory for all our 74 million people.”
But the success, observers say, will be a little bittersweet. The prime minister fell more than 40 seats short of his declared goal of a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which is needed to replace the 1982 constitution, written by Turkey’s then military rulers. A new constitution was a key electoral pledge. But there was growing concern both in and outside Turkey that if Mr. Erdogan achieved that goal, he would have had too much power. Mr. Erdogan even failed to secure the 330 seats needed to submit constitutional reforms to a referendum.
Mr. Erdogan did not realize his goal largely because candidates supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party defeated candidates from the prime minister’s party. The pro-Kurdish party increased its representation from 20 to more than 30 seats.
Observers say the election has served to underline the increasing power of Turkey’s Kurdish rights movement. The Kurdish rights issue is predicted to be one of most important and contentious aspects of any new constitution. While the prime minister still has a massive parliamentary majority of more than 100 seats, he will now have to seek support from at least another party to pass a new constitution.