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AKP Loses Majority in Turkish Elections

Adam Goldstein

Turkish voters displayed increasing disapproval of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Parliamentary elections held Sunday. Erdogan, the former prime minister, will now face an uphill battle as he attempts to rewrite the Turkish constitution to give the executive more power.

According to Reuters, the AKP ended with only 41 percent of the vote, a 9 percent decline from its previous victory in 2011. Although the AKP still holds the plurality of seats in Parliament, the party must now create a coalition with other parties in order to pass legislation. However, some opposition parties have refused to negotiate with the AKP, saying they may attempt to form a minority government. Even amid this setback, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defiantly stated, “Everyone should see that the AKP is the winner and leader of these elections,” during a speech in Ankara.

Supporters of the A.K.P. at the party’s headquarters in Ankara, the capital. (Photo: Reuters)

The AKP was expected to maintain its parliamentary majority due to its popularity among more conservative, Islamist supporters. Over the last decade, AKP has achieved a reputation as economic benefactors, helping to nearly triple Turkish GDP. Erdogan’s wish to increase Turkey’s role in shaping regional events has been a primary strategic goal of the AKP, but is less successful.

Economic success under the AKP created a strong political base, but support has begun to unravel as Turkey faces increasing authoritarianism and economic challenges. In the past year, the value of Turkey’s currency has declined in international markets and persistently high unemployment rates have hovered over 11 percent. Politically, Erdogan’s repressive moves to quell dissent in the press and on social media, and a failure to influence events in Syria, may have also lost AKP votes.

Meanwhile, for the first time in Turkish electoral history, the Kurds will have party representation in Parliament since they crossed a 10 percent minimum threshold. The left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) achieved 25 percent of the vote, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) received another 16 percent, also helping to deny the AKP a majority.

With the AKP’s ability to act unilaterally in Parliamentary proceedings now disrupted, it remains unclear whether the party will seek a new, more inclusive governing style. Meanwhile, Erdogan’s chances of gaining the two-thirds majority needed to reform the constitution in his favor seems more unlikely than ever. Similarly, AK members may also begin to wonder whether the the President’s abrasive and divisive demeanor will prove to be a liability for the party in the future.