Turkish voters have repudiated President Erdogan's attempts to change the constitution by making the president all powerful. By denying his not only the two-third majority but even a majority in the new parliament, the Turkish people have cut Erdogan to size.
Monday June 8, 2015, 09:39 DST
Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan woke up an angry man this morning. The AKP, the party he founded and led for so many years did badly in the Sunday (June 7) general elections. His party not only failed to secure the coveted 330 seats in the 550-seat parliament to give him the two-third majority to change the constitution but his party lost badly, failing to even get a clear majority. Erdogan wanted to change to constitution to transfer most powers in the hands of the president rather than the prime minister, as is the case at present.
From 327 seats in the outgoing parliament, the AKP got 258 in the new one. This is a huge drop in the AKP and particularly Erdogan’s popularity. The drop in popular vote was equally dramatic: from 49 percent in 2011 elections, the AKP’s share of the popular vote dropped to under 41 percent despite a huge turnout of more than 86 percent of eligible voters.
A chastened Erdogan announced earlier today that no single party could rule the country alone. While conceding a serious setback, it also reflected Turkey’s personality-based politics. Erdogan is the president, not the prime minister and according to the constitution the president’s job is largely ceremonial. It is the prime minister who should be making such pronouncements.
Not in Turkey; power goes with the man. So, when Erdogan was prime minister, he was in the limelight; now that he is the president, he continues to hog all the attention. While the Supreme Election Committee chairman, Sadi Guven, announced that official results will be announced in 11 to 12 days, he said the preliminary results showed four political parties would make it to parliament. These are the AKP (258 seats with 41.86% popular vote), pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP, 80 seats with 13.12%), Republican People’s Party (CHP, 125 seats, 25%), and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP, 80 seats with 15.29%).
All four parties had surpassed the 10 % election limit needed to obtain any seats in parliament. The remainder of the 4.78% vote went to other parties that will have no representation in the assembly. The election campaign was marred by serious accusations flying thick and fast. Erdogan was particularly scathing in his criticism not only of opponents but also any journalists critical of him.
He threatened to take action against them. His favorite ploy of accusing his opponents as being members of the “deep state” and working on its behalf to undermine Turkey did not find much traction with the electorate this time. Turkish economy had started to sputter. Most people were appalled by Erdogan’s extravagant 1100-room palace that came with a price tag of more than $1 billion.
Unemployment has been rising and while ordinary people are struggling, Erdogan has remained insulated from their concerns. Corruption scandals have been breaking out around him including allegations of involvement of his own family members. Many traditional supporters of the AKP deserted the party.
And he failed to make any headway with the Kurds, a significant minority in the country. This boosted the chance of the pro-Kurdish HDP gaining seats in the Turkish parliament for the first time. Its young charismatic leader, Selahattin Demirtas, 42 years old, is seen as a credible challenge to Erdogan who has held sway in Turkish politics since 2002. Demirtas was quick to point to Erdogan’s failure to condemn more than 70 violent attacks on HDP candidates, rallies and offices.
Two days before the election (June 5) bombs killed two people and wounded more than 200 at an HDP rally in Diyarbakir, in the mainly Kurdish south-east. Erdogan remained silent. Demirtas pointedly asked whether Erdogan was not the president of all 70 million people in Turkey?
May be Erdogan sees it differently: he only wants to represent those that support him. This number, however, is dwindling rapidly. The Turkish stock exchange registered a huge drop this morning fearing political uncertainty and turbulence. The Turkish lira also lost against the US dollar trading at 2.76.