Turkey sees end of single party gov’t as AK Party vote drops significantly

After 13 years of domination as a single-party government, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has been receiving growing criticism for pursuing highly divisive, authoritarian and repressive policies, saw a significant erosion of support in Sundayand’s election and it failed to secure the 276 seats in the Parliament necessary to continue its single-party rule for another term.
The pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Partyand’s (HDP), which opted to run as a party in this election for the first time, rather than fielding independent candidates to circumvent the countryand’s 10 percent election threshold, managed to pass the barrier, which reduced the number of seats in Parliament that would have otherwise gone to the AK Party. Hence, the establishment of a coalition government is back on Turkeyand’s agenda after more than a decade.
This result has also likely thwarted the plans of the AK Party government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change the countryand’s Constitution and transform Turkeyand’s parliamentary system into a presidential system, which many analysts said would enable Erdogan to continue accumulating power and give rise to a system without the necessary checks and balances.
The unofficial results of the election, which many said was more like a referendum in that would determine the fate and political future of the country andndash becoming either more authoritarian or denying President Erdogan the changes he aspires to and curbing his power andndash indicated that the AK Party received 40.6 percent, the main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) received 25.3 percent, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) received 16 percent while the HDP, which widened its appeal beyond its core Kurdish vote to center-left and secularist segments disillusioned with Erdogan, received 12.7 percent of the nationwide vote. These percentages translate into 257 seats for the AK Party, 131 for the CHP, 83 for the MHP and 79 for the HDP.
To form a single-party government, a party must obtain at least 276 deputy seats, which represents an absolute majority in a Parliament comprising 550 seats. In the previous general elections held in June 2011, the AK Party won a resounding victory, receiving nearly 50 percent of the nationwide vote and winning 327 seats in the Parliament. The partyand’s vote in the local elections held last year was around 46 percent.
Nearly 46 million out of a total of 53.7 million registered voters went to the polling stations across the country between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The voter turnout was about 85 percent.
Sundayand’s vote was held amid concerns of vote rigging, prompting more than 50,000 people to sign up to serve as election monitors. The fears were not without reason, as last yearand’s local elections, held on March 30, were overshadowed by allegations of election fraud due to the discrepancies between the numbers recorded at polling stations and those actually entered into the countryand’s election authority, the Higher Election Board (YSK), in addition to suspicious power outages taking place across 22 provinces during the vote count.
On Sunday, the mood was tense at some polling stations, particularly in the countryand’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, after a bombing on Friday killed two people and wounded at least 200 at an election rally for the HDP, which has been a frequent target of violence in the run-up to the polls.
After casting his vote in Istanbul, HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtai called for peace after what he saw as a andquotdifficult and troubled campaign.andquot
CHP leader Kemal Kiliandcdaroilu, who cast his vote in Ankara, complained that the campaign process was not fair and said a deadly attack on an HDP rally in Diyarbakir on Friday was particularly saddening.
The CHP received around 26 percent of the nationwide vote in 2011and’s general elections.
and”May the election be the best yet for our 20 parties, their valued candidates and 165 independent candidates,and” MHP leader Devlet Bahandceli Bahandceli told reporters after casting his vote in Ankara. His partyand’s vote in the 2011and’s general elections was around 13 percent.
AK Party leader and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu was in the central province of Konya to cast his vote on Sunday. He said it was a day of decision-making that will determine the fate of Turkey, adding that whatever result comes out of the ballot box, it should be respected.
President Erdogan, who spoke to reporters after he voted in Istanbul, said holding the elections at the scheduled time shows that there is stability and confidence in Turkey, adding that the high public interest in the election is also a sign of a strong democracy.
While constitutionally required to stay above party politics, Erdogan held frequent rallies throughout a confrontational election campaign, joining Prime Minister Davutoilu in attacking opposition parties. During these rallies, which often took place under the pretext of the inauguration of facilities, Erdogan, a founder of the AK Party and party leader until last August when he was elected to the largely ceremonial top state post, asked people to elect 400 lawmakers for the AK Party — without naming the party — who will vote for a new constitution that would pave the way for a presidential system. Erdogan aspired to become Turkeyand’s first president under a presidential system.
During the campaign process, opposition parties frequently criticized Erdoganand’s rallies, saying that he openly violated Article 103 of the Constitution, which addresses the presidentand’s oath of office and clearly states that the president will remain impartial while performing his duties.
Sundayand’s vote was held at a time when the AK Party government and Erdogan had been attracting much criticism from both within and outside Turkey for pursing increasingly authoritarian policies, stifling dissent, pressing ahead with laws damaging judicial independence and curtailing press freedom in other words rapidly moving Turkey away from the league of democratic countries governed by law.
The AK Party and Erdogan have resorted to increasingly repressive and authoritarian policies, particularly after two sweeping graft probes went public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 which revealed that leading members of the government were apparently deeply involved in corruption.
Erdogan branded the probes a and”coup attemptand” aiming to topple his government while making the faith-based Gandulen movement, also known as Hizmet movement, which is led by Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gandulen his primary target, holding the movement responsible for the revelations. He launched a defamation campaign and an all-out war against all organizations and people affiliated with the movement. He accused the movementand’s sympathizers, particularly those in the police force and the judiciary, of masterminding the probe and establishing a and”parallel stateand” within the state despite any lack of evidence to this effect. The movement strongly denies Erdoganand’s allegations.
The AK Party government did its best to sweep claims of widespread corruption under the rug. It replaced thousands of police officers, prosecutors and judges, as well as suspending and then expelling many of those who took part in the corruption probe from their profession. The government then ensured that the charges brought in the corruption probe were dropped with new, friendly prosecutors assigned to these investigations.
Through controversial penal courts of peace, established by the government last summer, the AK Party government ensured the launch of investigations against its critics as well as the police officers who took part in major operations such as the Dec. 17 and 25 graft probes as well as the Balyoz (Sledgehammer), Ergenekon, Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and Tawhid-Salam investigations. These operations shook public confidence in the legal system, and strengthened fears about the formation of a government-controlled judiciary. The operations led to dozens of experienced police officers being detained, arrested or dismissed.
Journalists have also come under unprecedented pressure under the rule of the AK Party government over the past several years, with many of them facing legal action merely for performing their duties. Many others lost their jobs or simply resorted to self-censorship in order not to anger Erdogan or the government.
Today, dozens of journalists including Samanyolu TV top executive Hidayet Karaca, investigative journalist Mehmet Baransu and many others are under arrest in Turkey or face prosecution. The journalists mostly face terrorism charges or are accused of insulting Erdogan or another government official. Charges are brought against journalists even for Twitter posts critical of government policies or Erdogan.
In addition to journalists, the judges who ruled for the release of some jailed police officers and a journalist were themselves subsequently jailed for their ruling, marking the first time in the judicial history of Turkey that a judge was jailed for his ruling.
Prosecutors have also been sent to jail for overseeing operations that frustrated Erdogan and the AK Party, such as the arrest of prosecutors involved in the search of Syria-bound trucks that were found to belong to the National Intelligence Organization (MiT) in January 2014. The trucks were allegedly illegally carrying weapons to opposition groups in Syria. Strongly denying this, the government claims the trucks were merely carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria.
All these developments have led to a significant decline in public confidence in the judicial system in the country, leaving many people with feelings of insecurity and distrust.
The government has also been unsuccessful in its fight against poverty. In fact, it has been accused by the opposition of and”managingand” poverty in order to retain the votes of the poor rather than trying to eliminate it. Erdogan recently also had a giant, luxurious presidential palace built for himself which has more 1,000 rooms and the AK Party is frequently criticized for wasting tax payersand’ money on extravagance.
Sundayand’s election was seen as the biggest electoral challenge for the AK Party since it came to power in 2002 and it turned out to be just that.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman