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Turkey’s AKP Wins Big

Samara Greenberg

Turkey’s ruling party, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won a majority with nearly 50 percent of the vote in Turkish parliamentary elections on Sunday, paving the way for the AKP to continue to pursue economic growth, an overhaul of the current constitution, and an eastward-looking foreign policy.

The AKP garnered 49.9 percent of the vote on Sunday, which translates into 326 seats in Parliament out of 550 total spots – 41 seats short of the two-thirds majority needed to unilaterally amend the constitution. The party is also four seats short of the 330 it needs to refer a new constitution to a public vote. Nevertheless, the AKP plans to forge ahead with its plans for a new constitution in conjunction with opposition parties. Erdogan has promised that the AKP’s constitution would include “basic rights and freedoms,” but has provided few details.

Turkey’s PM Erdogan greets his supporters on election day.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s AKP is popular inside the country for transforming Turkey’s economy and ending a cycle of military coups that plagued Ankara. In the West, however, Erdogan is not viewed the same: “What has emerged in the years since [the AKP’s first electoral victory in 2002] is a clear and systematic foreign policy orientation towards the Middle East—at the expense of the West,” writes Soner Cagaptay, Scott Carpenter and Burc Ozcelik.

Indeed, over the last decade, Turkey’s foreign policy shift has come out in various forms from its refusal to allow the U.S. military to use Turkey in order to invade Iraq in 2003 to its support of the IHH and the Gaza flotilla trip last year. Moreover, domestically, though the AKP has officially embraced democracy, in practice it known to silence dissent in the media and courtroom. Analysts have noted that this may very well have been Turkey’s last free elections. With the AKP in control of “all three branches of the government and the military sidelined, little will stop it from changing the rules to keep power into the indefinite future,” said Middle East expert Daniel Pipes.

With the AKP’s win on Sunday, Washington can expect a continuation of the same attitude out of Ankara over the next four years.