Author: Zurab Batiashvili, Research Fellow, Rondeli Foundation
Snap presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Turkey on June 24, 2018. The fact that the major part of the constitutional amendments approved in last year’s referendum will enter into force right after the election transitioning Turkey’s governance into a presidential system enhanced the importance of the event. Along with granting sweeping new powers to the President, the office of the Prime Minister has been abolished as well and the post of the Vice-President (or Vice-Presidents subject to presidential decision) has been formed who will be appointed and dismissed directly by the President.
The elections were held during the country’s continued state of emergency and in essence aimed at winning a vote of confidence on the part of the public for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan’s allies, the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the right-centrist MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), formed a joint block, called the People’s Alliance, for the election. Erdogan’s opponents united in their so-called National Alliance which consists of the left-centrist CHP (Republican People’s Party), the right-centrist İYİ (Good Party) and the conservative SP (Felicity Party). Another of Erdogan’s rivals, the left-wing pro-Kurdish HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), abstained from any alliances for tactical reasons. Respectively, the pro-Kurdish HDP aimed at exceeding the 10% threshold alone, although this target was much easier to achieve for those parties united in a coalition.
Results of the Presidential Election
The main point of intrigue for the June 24 polls was the presidential race in which Erdogan, with his 16 years of experience in ruling the country, defeated his rival and claimed a landslide victory in the first round of the election. The National Alliance had not reached an agreement on a joint candidate in the presidential election and so each member of the coalition nominated its own contender for the presidency. The ultimate outcome of the election led to the following composition:
|Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AKP – Justice and Development Party)||52,6 %|
|Muharrem İnce (CHP – Republican People’s Party)||30,6 %|
|Selahattin Demirtaş (HDP – Peoples’ Democratic Party)||8,4 %|
|Meral Akşener (İYİ – Good Party)||7,3 %|
|Temel Karamollaoğlu (SP – Felicity Party)||0,9 %|
It is worth noting that Erdogan has a long record of popularity which is less susceptible to any shift. For instance, he claimed 51.8% of the votes in 2014’s presidential election while 51.4% supported the constitutional amendments he initiated in 2017’s referendum. Mainly, Erdogan received the majority of votes in inner Anatolia and the Black Sea coastal regions, where a conservative and nationalistic electorate has traditionally prevailed, as well as in Istanbul and Ankara. İnce succeeded in the leftist leaning western provinces while Demirtaş won votes in the south-eastern regions dominated with citizens of Kurdish origin.
The acting president’s victory mainly resulted from forming an election coalition (AKP MHP) that accumulated the support of nationalistic minded electors in favor of Erdogan. The nationalistically and conservatively (anti-Western in essence) minded Turkish electorate voted for the country’s stability which they associate with Erdogan. His idea of a strong “New Turkey” capable of overcoming socio-economic and political troubles and able to conduct an even more independent foreign policy emerged as very attractive for citizens. His supporters reached a total of 26.3 million people.
Despite the fact that the leading opposition party’s CHP candidate, İnce, had gained the support of 15.3 million citizens and surpassed his own party by 8%, 30.6% was well below qualification for a second round. İnce’s performance in the election, assessed as unsuccessful, had its own objective explanations. Traditionally, the structure of Turkish voters is unsusceptible to any change. Between 60%-65% of the electorate generally supports rightist (nationalistic and conservative) political forces while 35%-40% of voters are in favor of parties and leaders of a leftist orientation. İnce admitted his defeat the day after the election and congratulated Erdogan on his victory.
The jailed HDP candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş, was not able to conduct a full-fledged election campaign for obvious reasons and the İYİ party’s leader, Meral Akşener, received less support than his own party.
Results of Parliamentary Election
Results for the political parties in Turkey’s June 24 parliamentary election are as follows:
|Title of party||Votes (%)||Number of members of the parliament|
|AKP (Justice and Development Party)||42,6||295|
|CHP (Republican People’s Party)||22,6||146|
|HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party)||11,7||67|
|MHP (Nationalist Movement Party)||11,1||49|
|İYİ Parti (Good Party)||10,0||43|
|SP (Felicity Party)||1,3||0|
According to the outcome of the election, five political parties will be represented in the Turkey’s new Parliament. The ruling AKP party received approximately 7% less votes as compared to the previous parliamentary election. However, it still won a landslide victory by taking first place. This is the 13th victory in a row for the party which makes for an all-time record in Turkey’s history. Despite the fact that the party could not qualify 301 members in the legislative branch of the government that would allow for the formation of the new government independently, the goal is easily reachable by converting the AKP-MHP People’s Alliance into the governmental coalition.
A review of the electoral geography reveals certain similarities to the presidential election. The ruling party traditionally won votes in Central Anatolia and the Black Sea coastal area as well as in the larger cities (except Izmir). It also received major support in the country’s eastern and south-eastern regions. The opposition CHP achieved a remarkable performance in western Turkey’s Aegean Sea region and Trakya whereas the pro-Kurdish HDP was mainly in the lead in the south-east. However, it should be mentioned that the HDP received some support from ultra-leftist residents living in western Turkey as well. In spite of the fact that the MHP and the İYİ were not able to garner a majority of votes in any particular regions, the overall votes won by those parties are proof of their importance as players in Turkish politics.
- The majority of Turkey’s residents supports President Erdogan’s policy which ensured his sweeping victory in the election.
- It is highly expected that he will rule the state with an “iron fist” for at least the next five years.
- Transition to the presidential system will completely change the governance of the state that existed in the past.
- Turkey will have a coalition government, presumably formed by the AKP and the MHP parties. Subsequently, the role of the MHP’s chairman, Devlet Bahçeli, will increase in Turkey’s politics.
- The opposition was once more not able to reach unity for the sake of a common goal. It was not able to allure electors with right-wing sentiments and it hardly presented residents of Turkey with an alternative way for development.
- Ideologically, Turkey’s society remains polarized with the distribution of political sentiments in almost equal volumes.
- Turkey still faces grave military-political, socio-economic and security challenges – the war in Syria, tensions with the West, terrorism – the fight against FETÖ (Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization), the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), Deash, living under a continued state of emergency, the surge of refugees, unemployment, plummeting inflation, the devaluation of the Turkish lira, the large amount of internal and external debt and etc., all of which should be addressed by the new government. The most challenging will be tackling these hardships.
- Taking into consideration that Muharrem İnce won a significant amount of votes in the presidential election, it seems valid to assume that his political ambitions will be enhanced, leading to an ultimate attempt to get the chairmanship of the CHP or founding a new political party.
- Despite not receiving the expected number of votes, the İYİ Parti remains as a center of gravitation to attract the support of right-wing voters who are still dissatisfied with the ruling AKP party. This fact has been proven to some extent by the results of the elections.
- Despite some recent political shifts both in Turkey and Georgia, fluctuations in Turkish-Georgian relations seem less likely. No matter who is in charge in Turkey and Georgia, relations between these states that are based on alliance, good neighborly relations and a strategic partnership and are rather immune to any shifts. Their geography and the political developments on the international arena dictate that these two countries continue to maintain and increase positive attitudes and positive relationships.