What do the Turkish elections mean?

Türkiye’s long-awaited presidential and parliamentary elections took place on May 14. According to the final results, the People’s Alliance led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won the majority of seats in Parliament. However, as President Erdoğan fell 0.5% shy of the 50% threshold, a runoff election will be held on May 28 to determine the new president. Opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu received 44.8% of the vote, followed by far-right candidate Sinan Oğan with 5.2%.

Several noteworthy aspects of the elections deserve attention. The most vivid factor is the disappointment of the opposition, which was confident about overthrowing President Erdoğan this time. However, they were shocked when the final vote count revealed their defeat. Kılıçdaroğlu had formed an alliance known as the “table for six” with five right-wing parties, along with the pro-PKK Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in an attempt to secure victory. Given their combined support from previous elections, it seemed likely that they would win by a wide margin. Additionally, their collaboration during the mayoral elections had proven successful. On May 14, however, their plans did not unfold as anticipated.

Furthermore, in an effort to secure victory, Kılıçdaroğlu even granted his party’s 37 parliamentary seats to smaller “table for six” parties. These parties would have only received 1% of the votes had they run independently. While the smaller parties having emerged as the biggest winners in the Nation Alliance, with a significant number of seats despite just 1% of the vote share could be used against Kılıçdaroğlu within his own party. Ironically, the intention behind joining forces with Erdoğan’s former allies was to remove him from power, but now it appears that this coalition may even result in Kılıçdaroğlu losing his position as chairperson of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

HDP’s support did not help Kılıçdaroğlu

Contrary to predictions, Kılıçdaroğlu was unable to secure victory due to his de facto collaboration with the HDP. The CHP-led Nation Alliance had expected that by combining the HDP’s 10% support with their own, they would easily win the elections. Kılıçdaroğlu and his cohorts made several pledges to the HDP, including the release of the party’s jailed former chair Selahattin Demirtaş and the dismissal of trustees who had replaced HDP mayors. While Kılıçdaroğlu did receive the majority of HDP voters’ ballot backing, his concessions to the party caused Turkish nationalists to abandon the coalition. This is why Sinan Oğan, another presidential candidate representing far-right nationalists, surprisingly garnered 5.2% of the vote share and became a decisive figure for the runoff. Thus, aligning with Kurdish nationalists only served to mobilize Turkish nationalists and boost right-wing votes, including the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the partner of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the People’s Alliance. It is evident that any party aligning with the HDP should not expect much success in elections due to the party’s strong ties with the PKK. The AK Party also lost votes during the peace process that occurred between 2013 and 2015.

The People’s Alliance will be represented by approximately 322 lawmakers in Parliament, indicating that they have obtained the majority in the legislative body. However, the AK Party will have fewer lawmakers compared to previous elections, as their support decreased to 35.5%. On the other hand, the New Welfare Party (YRP), led by Fatih Erbakan, the son of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, managed to secure five seats in Parliament. Noteworthy is the fact that voters who left the AK Party opted for either the YRP or MHP. In a way, these voters remained within the alliance. However, it is obvious that while people’s loyalty to Erdoğan continues, this is not the case for the AK Party. Perhaps both Erdoğan and the AK Party should focus on why people differentiate between the leader and the party.

What will be Oğan’s path?

Looking forward to the second round, it is likely that both Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu will maintain their current levels of support as voters consciously choose their preferred candidates. Hence, they will either negotiate with Oğan or appeal to his electorate to secure their votes. Oğan appears to be attempting to strike a deal with both sides. Logically, Oğan should prefer Erdoğan over Kılıçdaroğlu, as Erdoğan only needs an additional 0.6% to win. However, he may still consider siding with the opposition’s candidate. Although Oğan insists that Kılıçdaroğlu should sever ties with the HDP and that President Erdoğan should repatriate Syrian migrants, he will undoubtedly accept a favorable deal that benefits him personally. On the other hand, even if he supports either party, it does not guarantee that his voters will follow suit, as a significant number of them consist of protest votes.

Overall, Türkiye will elect its new president on May 28, and incumbent President Erdoğan is highly likely to emerge victorious. Barring any extraordinary developments, Erdoğan will begin his new and final term on May 29. It is worth noting that he is trailing by 3% in comparison to his vote ratio in the previous election. Nonetheless, it can still be considered a success as he remains on the cusp of a new victory. Despite enduring numerous human-made and natural disasters, including two economic crises, a pandemic and devastating earthquakes, Erdoğan will most likely lead his country for another five years.

Source: Daily Sabah

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