In a stunning reversal, Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has lost its parliamentary majority in this weekend’s elections. For the first time since 2002, the Islamist party will need a coalition partner to control the parliament. The NYT:
With 99 percent of the votes counted, the A.K.P. had won 41 percent of the vote, according to TRT, a state-run broadcaster, down from nearly 50 percent during the last national election in 2011. The percentage gave it an estimated 259 seats in Turkey’s Parliament, compared with the 327 seats it has now.
“The outcome is an end to Erdogan’s presidential ambitions,” said Soner Cagaptay, an expert on Turkey and a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
What Cagaptay—the author of a recent feature here in our pages—is referring to here is President Erdogan’s ambition to pass a controversial constitutional amendment which would have seen power consolidated in the Presidency rather than the Prime Ministership.
Some 46 million Turks (close to 90% of the eligible voters) cast ballots in today’s election, which was slated to be the most competitive since the AKP took power thirteen years ago. Erdogan himself seemed increasingly concerned in recent weeks, lashing out at the Western press, Jews in the media, alleged international conspiracies against Turkey, and cracking down on domestic critics. Doubts about the democratic bona fides of an increasingly erratic, even megalomaniacal Erdogan combined with concerns about the country’s tumbling economy to weaken the AKP.
Had Erdogan won the thumping majority he campaigned for, he would have certainly turned the Turkish presidency into the most powerful office in the country. His critics inside and outside the ruling party would have been intimidated, critical media voices would have been silenced, the government would have been stuffed with personal loyalists and the next round of elections might have the kind of shambolic contest featured in Putin’s Russia.
That will all be much harder to do after the weekend result. At TAI, we’ll continue to cover the aftershocks from Turkey’s election. The country is far from out of the woods, and difficult choices remain. Erdogan is as ambitious and eccentric as ever, and his party is still the strongest political force in a strategically vital NATO ally.