‘Victory of democracy’: Turkey’s ruling party claims parliamentary majority
With almost all of the ballots counted, the AKP (Justice and Development Party) had achieved 49.3 percent of the vote, Turkish broadcaster TRT reported. “This is a success exceeding our expectations," one senior AKP officials said of the results, meaning the party can comfortably control a majority in the 550-seat parliament.
The main opposition CHP (Republican People's Party) stood at 25.2 percent, while the nationalist MHP and pro-Kurdish HDP were both just above the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament, seeing their shares drop considerably since the previous election.
Voter turnout was high, with TRT claiming around 86 percent of Turks cast their ballots on Sunday. The final official results of the vote will be released in 11 or 12 days, according to the head of Turkey's election board.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu however has already declared victory, saying that “today is the day of victory of democracy and the people.”
The leader of the opposition CHP meanwhile warned the ruling party to “respect the principle of the supremacy of the law.” Kemal Kilicdaroglu added he does not consider the increase in public support for his party an “achievement”, since it was not enough to come to power.
The snap parliamentary election was called in Turkey after the previous vote in June failed to produce a government.
Four parties made it past the 10-percent threshold in the June election, with the ruling conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) losing nine percent of support since the previous election and failing to get a majority for the first time in 13 years.
Convoluted coalition talks between AKP and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) followed but were in vain. Critics blamed AKP and President Recep Erdogan of being increasingly authoritarian and not willing to share power.
“[Erdogan] wants a presidential system in Turkey. He did not change his mind after the last election. I think he will force that, somehow. And I think this is the last exit before the full dictatorship for Turkey,” Ceyda Karan, an opposition journalist at Cumhuriyet newspaper, told RT.
The campaign was marred by two bombing attacks blamed on the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). One took place in July in the town of Suruc, on the Syrian border, where Kurd fighters had gathered to cross the border and join the fight against IS for the city of Kobani, killing more than 30 people. The other in October killed over 100 activists at a rally gathered in Ankara by trade unions and the pro-Kurdish HDP party, becoming the worst act of terrorism in Turkey’s modern history.
The HDP, or Peoples' Democratic Party is a rising star of Turkish politics, a collective of groups standing for progressive policies and the rights of minority groups such as women, Kurds and the LGBT community that banded together in 2012 under a banner of radical modernization of Turkish society. The June election was the first time the HDP had won seats in parliament.
Their message of egalitarianism, environmentalism and anti-capitalism often directly opposes AKP’s nationalistic and Islam-based agenda, and for many Turks voting HDP equated with voting against AKP, even if they don’t share some of their goals.
“This skirmish basically brightened… HDP and [its chairman Chairman Selahattin] Demirtas,” Pelin Batu, a TV presenter, told RT. “People were like: well, this is a dirty politics that’s being played. And we’re going to support this party, even if we would never even conceive of voting for a Kurdish party before, because these are the ones that are going to halt the new parliamentary regime, that Erdogan is after.”
Batu worked for Bugun TV, the channel of the eponymous daily newspaper. Its HQ was raided on Wednesday by law enforcement investigating its ties with the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who the Erdogan government previously accused of plotting a coup in Turkey. Batu was fired after the raid.
Bugun and Millet, another paper under the crackdown, failed to publish on Thursday, but had turned pro-government by Friday, publishing fawning front pages. Most of their staff members were sacked. The development triggered violent, anti-government protests in Turkey.
Opinion polls predict that HDP’s share of seats in the 550-member legislature would remain small with an estimated 12-13 percent of the vote expected. But the party expects to attract more protest voters in the future, especially as AKP’s chances of winning back a majority are slim, and so the prospect of yet another snap election is looming over the divided country.