Turkey’s Parliamentary Elections – An Assessment
By Iran Review
By Reza Solat*
In all my previous analyses, I emphasized that Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu would be unrivaled winner of this round of the country’s parliamentary elections and I was of the opinion that under the present circumstances, the playground would not be under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s control, but it is the country’s prime minister who would set the rules of the elections. Based on this background, the present article discusses reasons behind the recent election win of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party in view of the country’s internal and external environment.
1. Internal environment
A review of domestic developments in Turkey between June 7 and November 1 will shed more light on possible mechanisms that led to victory of the ruling Justice and Development Party in recent elections. Two major currents emerged in Turkey’s public opinion during this period of time: firstly, after many years, Turkish people saw their country without a party being in absolute control, and secondly, they saw the power of the opposition parties as well. In fact, during the aforesaid four months, the memory of Turkey’s coalition governments of the 1970s was revived in the internal environment of Turkey. In the meantime, Davutoglu was offered with an unprecedented opportunity to implement his theoretical strategies free from any pressure. The vote results also show that after Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lost 39 parliamentary seats and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lost 21 seats, the Justice and Development Party’s seats increased in number.
In fact, due to measures taken by Davutoglu with the help of Erdogan to intensify security and identity-based environment of the country, the way was paved for these two unrelenting parties to be undermined as a result of which the votes given to the Justice and Development Party rose in number. The Peoples’ Democratic Party had created the impression in Turkey following June 7 that the country was in for some form of national reconciliation model, but that impression faded in a matter of the past four months and those conditions were not provided. As a result, the rift between the Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party and the Peoples’ Democratic Party increased and all opportunities were offered to the Justice and Development Party, to ride the tide created by those rifts and change conditions to its own benefit.
The important point, which was totally evident in Turkey’s political environment following elections on June 7, was severe multipolarity of the political and social atmosphere in the country. In the meantime, the noteworthy point is the advantage that was taken from the rift that existed within the Nationalist Movement Party. The personal and age-old rivalry between Yildirim Tugrul Turkes, the son of Alparslan Turkes, the founder of the Nationalist Movement Party, and its current leader, Devlet Bahceli, became so serious that he took the risk of being expelled from the party by accepting an invitation from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to participate in the formation of the interim government.
After his father died in 1997, Tugrul Turkes was nominated for the leadership of the Nationalist Movement Party and was considered the frontrunner for the post. However, after six other nominees withdrew from the race in favor of Devlet Bahceli, Tugrul Turkes could not achieve the post. Since that time, he was always the second best after Bahceli and until the time he was temporarily expelled from the Nationalist Movement Party, Turkes could not have any post better that the first assistant of the party’s leader. It seems that no other development could have made Davutoglu happier. Turkes was a deputy to Davutoglu in the two-month interim government. The Justice and Development Party had pinned great hope on a shift in part of the nationalists’ votes due to presence of one of the most famous nationalist figures in the composition of the interim government, and was successful in this regard. The same situation also existed for the Peoples’ Democratic Party in a different way as they also joined the interim cabinet.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) was the only party that refrained from taking part in the interim government in any way. As a result, its parliamentary seats increased, even compared to June 7 elections, from 132 to 134. As a result, it seems that political parties, whose representatives took part in the formation of the interim government with Davutoglu, have lost their votes in favor of the Justice and Development Party. On the other hand, from June 7 to November 1, all parties failed to allay Turkish people’s old fears of coalition governments. As a result, such old fears prompted the public opinion to turn toward the Justice and Development Party once again. Subsequently, the time interval between June 7 and November 1 was a short period, which was reminiscent of past history of Turkey, including unstable and coalition governments that were formed between the government of Turgut Ozal and the government of Bulent Ecevit. The prolongation of the process of forming the interim government caused major economic indices to fall under conditions where no government was in place, making people eager to see rapid formation of the new government.
2. External environment
The most important external factors affecting the situation in Turkey included the economic crisis in Greece, presence of Russia in Syria, and fears about insecurity in relation to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Daesh terrorist group. All these factors prompted Turkish citizens to turn toward Davutoglu. By blaming PKK and Daesh as responsible for three terrorist attacks that took place in various parts of the country, Davutoglu gained the votes of nationalists, who are against Kurds, on the one hand, while on the other hand, winning the votes of Kurds, who are opposed to Daesh, by accusing Daesh of having conducted the terrorist attacks. In fact, the officials of the Justice and Development Party struck a balance among terrorist groups operating in Turkey’s external environment, as a result of which they were able to take advantage of the existing rifts between two rival parties to their own benefit in the internal environment of Turkey. This is why Turkey blamed both Daesh and PKK simultaneously for the terrorist attacks. At the same time, the cease-fire between PKK and the central government in Turkey was terminated at the end of June following which the country was scene of spiraling violence, especially in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır. The soaring violence then led to securitization and bipolarity of the discourse-based conditions in Turkey. The rising wave of violence was, in fact, the most important factor that caused votes won by the Peoples’ Democratic Party to fall compared to previous elections.
Ph.D. in International Relations and Expert on Turkey Issues