Monday

17th Feb 2020

Analysis

Erdogan gambles and wins

  • The AKP shifted the emphasis in its campaign to the choice between stability and chaos (Photo: Travel Aficionado)

Nobody in Turkey expected the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to win that big in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

With 49 percent of the votes and a majority of seats in the parliament, the conservative AKP will again be able to rule single-handedly. Of the three opposition parties, the seculars stabilised, the nationalists lost a fourth of their voters and the Kurds barely managed to surpass the electoral threshold.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

It is a stunning victory that has left many wondering how Mr Erdogan and his party were able to change the political momentum that had seemingly turned against them only a few months ago.

In June, the party, officially led by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu but still, behind the scenes, controlled by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lost its majority in parliament.

For the first time since 2002, the AKP was not able to form a single-party government.

The loss of almost 10 percent was seen as a clear signal of dissatisfied voters, fed up with Erdogan's growing authoritarianism and firmly opposed to his plan to change the constitution and install an all-powerful presidency.

Kurdish policy

In June, the AKP was also punished for its ambiguous Kurdish policy. Nationalist voters left the party because they were unhappy with the talks between the government and the outlawed PKK.

On the other hand, many conservative Kurds did not believe Erdogan anymore because he did not deliver on his promises. They voted for the Kurdish nationalist HDP that, for the first time and with the help of liberals and leftists, managed to get over the 10 percent electoral threshold.

Hopes were high that AKP, obliged to form a coalition government, would loosen its iron grip on Turkish politics and society, and that Erdogan would be forced to respect the constitutional limits to his position and would not be able to interfere in daily politics anymore.

With the HDP in parliament, there was the expectation that, finally, Turkey's Kurdish problem could be solved. It did not happen.

Instead, coalition talks went nowhere.

From the start, it was clear Mr Erdogan preferred new elections. Fights between the PKK and the Turkish security forces started again, putting the HDP in an awkward position, under attack from two sides.

Erdogan and the government accused them of close ties to the terrorists while the hardliners on the Kurdish side tried to push back the role of the elected politicians and reestablish their dominance.

Two devastating suicide bombings by Islamist State sympathisers in July and October that killed almost 150 people created an atmosphere of tension and fear in the country.

The growing instability sent the Turkish lira down, underlining the structural problems faced by the Turkish economy.

Stability or chaos

The AKP quickly learned the lesson from the June elections and shifted the emphasis in its campaign for the November 1 elections from the unpopular presidential system to the choice between stability and chaos.

Polls indicated that tactic would not work and most people expected the outcome of this elections to be the same as in June.

What happened, however, was that many of the voters that abandoned the AKP in June returned.

Nationalist voters appreciated the party's nationalist rhetoric and punished the nationalist party leader for his obstructionist behavior.

Conservative Kurds were fed up with the new round of PKK violence and blamed the HDP for it. Most floating voters opted for the stability offered by the AKP.

The result is a deeply divided and polarised country that will again be ruled by Erdogan and his party. Many doubt whether the AKP will be able to deliver on its promise of stability.

Erdogan will not get his presidential system - the AKP does not have enough seats to change the constitution on its own - but he will continue to act as the de facto dominating force that does not accept criticism or checks and balances on his power.

If Turkey keeps attacking both the PKK and IS, the violence will go on and the economy will continue to suffer.

Optimists hope that the urgent need to focus on the economy will force Erdogan and the AKP to soften their dividing tactics and look for a deal with the Kurds.

In the negotiations between the EU and Turkey about the Syrian refugees, Europe will be confronted with a confident partner who will only accept the first prize in return for more and better cooperation.

Joost Lagendijk is a former member of the European Parliament who lives in Turkey and is now a columnist for Turkish dailies Zaman and Today’s Zaman.

Erdogan party clinches majority in Turkey

Turkish president Erdogan is set to tighten his grip on power as voters in Sunday's general election gave his party a clear majoirty to rule the polarised country at the gates of Europe.

When the EU shuts up, Erdogan moves in

Almost a week after Merkel’s visit to Istanbul, Turkish police seized one of the country's largest media groups on the eve of elections.

Analysis

Erdogan down but not out

Turkey’s voters have shown they don't want to be ruled by one man, slowly shifting away from Europe.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

News in Brief

  1. Michel proposes GNI 1.074 percent for budget
  2. Five Star Movement to protest against own government
  3. France pushing for tougher EU line on Brexit alignment
  4. Facebook delays EU roll-out of dating app
  5. Coronavirus a 'key risk' in EU's economic forecast
  6. Von dey Leyen defends record at German parliament inquiry
  7. Johnson loses finance and N. Ireland ministers in reshuffle
  8. Eight EU states warned over money-laundering delay

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. The last best chance for Donbas and peace in Europe?
  2. EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in
  3. Will coronavirus lead to medicine shortage in EU?
  4. EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal
  5. 'Westlessness' - Western restlessness at China's ascent
  6. Central Europe mayors join in direct EU funds plea
  7. What you don't hear about Spain's migration policy
  8. 'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us