Erdogan’s AKP loses majority in Turkish election, pro-Kurdish party enters parliament for 1st time

An election official empties a ballot box at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Istanbul, Turkey, June 7, 2015. (Reuters / Yagiz Karahan)
Early results in Turkey’s parliamentary election have shown that the ruling party will fall short of a majority and for the first time in 12 years have to form a coalition, spoiling President Tayyip Erdogan's hopes of sweeping constitutional changes.

Preliminary results, with over 99 percent of votes counted, suggest the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has garnered some 41 percent of the votes, a loss of 9 percentage points, netting it about 258 seats in the country’s 550-seat Grand National Assembly. The data comes from Turkey’s NTV channel, citing the central electoral committee.

The polls opened at 8 a.m. local time (5 a.m. GMT) on Sunday and closed at 5 p.m. local time (2 p.m. GMT).

While the official results are to be presented in 11-12 days, preliminary results indicate that three opposition parties have passed 10 percent barrier necessary to enter parliament, and that to form a government the AKP will have to enter a coalition with one of them.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has preliminarily garnered about 25 percent of the vote (a rise of 4 percentage points), taking about 130 seats in parliament. Ahead of the voting, the party pledged to limit the president’s influence over the judiciary and executive branches.

Among other things, it has promised to make Turkey an EU member, and push for an independent and pluralistic media.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took about 17 percent of the vote (an increase of 3 percentage points), claiming a little over 80 seats. During the election campaign, the party said it would refrain from reforming the parliamentary system or media freedoms, something that Erdogan's party has been craving for.

In another highlight of Sunday’s election, the Kurdish-linked People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has about 13 percent of the vote so far. This is first time a pro-Kurdish party has managed to get into parliament.

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Diyarbakir, Turkey, June 7, 2015. (Reuters/Osman Orsal)

The HDP’s election campaign has been marred by tension and violence, with over 70 attacks on party supporters reported during the party’s campaign events. On Friday, two blasts hit an HDP rally in the city of Diyarbakir, killing two people.

"Based on initial election results, we are on the verge of entering parliament and winning 80 seats," HDP lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder told a press conference in Ankara.

"This is the collective victory of all the oppressed people of Turkey. We will stand by all our pre-electoral pledges," HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas said, local media reported.

READ MORE: Two killed, over 100 wounded in blasts at pro-Kurdish rally in Turkey

The HDP is relatively new to Turkish politics. It was founded in 2012 as the political wing of a union of several left-wing groups. Those include proponents of women’s and gay rights, secularists, anti-capitalists and environmentalists involved in the Gezi Park protests.

Erdogan has accused the HDP of being a front for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which took up arms in 1984 in an insurgency that killed 40,000 people.

"I believe the results, which do not give the opportunity to any party to form a single-party government, will be assessed healthily and realistically by every party," President Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.

The AKP had hoped to make changes to the constitution that would transfer more executive powers to the president. Erdogan is the founder and former leader of the AKP. Before assuming the presidency in 2014, he served three terms as the country’s prime minister.

Prior to the election, the AKP held 327 seats in the parliament.

The election outcome for the AKP is significantly lower than the party was hoping for. It had hoped to win 330 seats, which would have allowed it to put any changes to the country’s constitution to a referendum without the need for votes from other parties. A total of 367 seats or more would allow it to change the constitution without needing a referendum at all. However, if AKP gets fewer than 276 seats, it will have to form a coalition to rule, making constitution changes a remote prospect.

Supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) celebrate along a street after the parliamentary election in Diyarbakir, Turkey, June 7, 2015. (Reuters/Osman Orsal )

With these results, the AKP expects "a minority government and early election," Reuters quoted a senior party official who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying.

The co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP has already said that his party will never form a coalition with Erdogan’s AKP.

“Discussions about the president’s executive powers and dictatorship have come to an end with this election,” Selahattin Demirtas said.

The leader of rightist MHP, Devlet Bahceli, declared that his party was ready to strike a deal with the AKP if the pro-Kurdish HDP does not enter a government coalition. Bahceli said that if no coalition is formed, new elections should be called.

Political differences

One of the major points of contention between the parties is the amount of power the president is supposed to have. AKP believes that Turkey needs to strengthen the presidency and the executive branch and move towards an executive presidential system from the current parliamentary one. CHP would like to see presidential powers over the judiciary restricted and believes the executive branch should have limited power. MHP thinks the parliament itself should sort out any problems with the current parliamentary system, and that increasing the power of the executive branch is unnecessary and undesirable. Both CHP and HDP want to shut down the president’s discretionary fund, which was introduced last March.

The reform and independence of the justice system is also a major issue. AKP is pushing for a greater role of parliament in senior judicial and appeal court appointments and proposes reforming procedures in higher courts via a constitutional change. The opposition parties, meanwhile, want to prevent political influence on the judiciary branch, and stop the Justice Minister from selecting members for the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors.

With regard to press freedoms, the CHP has promised to make the state broadcaster TRT autonomous, while HDP has spoken about democratically reforming the broadcasting regulator, RTUK, to make it less conservative.

As to women’s issues, HDP has called for the creation of a Ministry of Women to fight male domination and violence. In turn, MHP said it will raise awareness of the abuse faced by the Turkish women, while AKP has promoted a “zero tolerance” policy for violence towards women and encouraged higher fertility rates.

Only the Islamist SP/BBP block directly opposes EU membership for Turkey, while CHP boldly promises to make the country a full EU member state.