The death of Turkish President Erdogan’s dream of an AK supermajority

On 7 June 15 Turkish President Erdogan’s dream of an AK supermajority and a strong presidency died.

Of the three opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party – Halklarin Demokratik Partisi (HDP) is the only Kurdish-centered party, and it captured from 12-15% of the total vote.  The other two minority vote getters were the European liberal-style Republican Peoples Party – Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP), and the Nationalist Movement Party – Milliyetci Hareket Partisi (MHP).

MHP is diametrically opposed to any Kurdish solution that cedes territory or political power to any Kurdish group. It won 16% of the popular vote and can be seen as the real kingmakers in any future coalition.  CHP came in with 25% and the Justice and Development Party – AK Partisi, President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party with 40% of the vote.

What this means is that, first, a grand coalition between all of the oppositions parties is impossible given the distance in their left-to-right political opinions.

Second, any coalition will have to include the AKP, which all of the parties have publicly disavowed unless the AKP makes deep concessions.  The CHP has stated that they will enter into a coalition with AKP only if either the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu or President Erdogan first resigns; and the MHP will only enter if the President Erdogan agrees to reopen the corruption investigation, which will center on his favorite son Bailal, who will probably go to prison–which might lead to a leadership crisis.   All of these courses of action are seen as nonstarters.

Third, the election turned against President Erdogan because he blurred the lines between himself, the office of the president of Turkey, and the Turkish government.  He was widely perceived as acting as if that he alone was the government and thus could not be called to correction because of his actions (as seen in the construction of, and his defense of, his illegal palace).  It was this hubris, above all other things, which motivated people to vote against him.  Keep in mind that the office of the presidency, as written in the Turkish constitution, is politically weak: the president’s only duty is to preside over the immense bureaucracy of the government (but not the parliament) and to call political parties to form a coalition in the event that there is no single-party majority.

President Erdogan’s goal for this last election was to have an AKP supermajority (more than 55%) in parliament so that the constitution could be amended to have the president act in the role of prime minister, designator of the courts and prosecutors, and head of the AK party.  Essentially, he would make, enforce, and review all of the laws. However, because the Turkish Kurds agreed to back a single party (in previous elections they had split their votes among various factions, with no single Kurdish party gaining more than 5% of the Kurdish vote), and nationalistic and politically conservative Turks abandoned the AK and voted for the MHP. AK party lost 7-10% along with the overall election and their majority in the parliament.

What this means for the Middle East is that President Erdogan’s ambition for a bigger Turkish sphere of influence in the region is deeply in jeopardy.  With the weakening of his domestic political base his ability to enact effective foreign policy is also weakened.  Add to that a falling Turkish lire, the presence of more than 1.75 million Syrian refugees in Turkey and, most importantly, more than 1 million young natural born Turks under the age of 25 out of work and out of school, President Erdogan’s ability to influence the wider region is increasingly receding from his grasp.

His ambition to influence Iraq and Syria has deteriorated into simply moving cash and weapons clandestinely to friendly factions and getting caught in the act by his own Gendarme.  Additionally, his support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has exploded in his face.

What this means for the Kurdish population is that with a bona fide political party and a road map for Turkish reconciliation, it is possible for the YPK and the broader Kurdish insurrection to end.  Further, with the election of Assyrians, Armenians, Kurdish women, and Christians to the parliament, it is possible that the entire Turkish political landscape will be permanently been altered.


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