Recent Turkish elections 2018 set for a new initiation of a nascent system. The elections were a first where the population had to elect the President at the same time when they elected the majority in the Parliament. The election was not just one where it was a leader versus leader but one in which for the first time ever, pre-coalition was formed and it became a fight where there was coalition versus coalition as well.
The official results will be declared on 5th July and though the unofficial results were unprecedented for the opposition leaders and the opposing coalition, it seemed to be one which was much anticipated by the winning side. Of course the actual period between the balloting and the declaration of the results was pretty keen and anxious for both sides, the aftermath marked a landmarked difference as Erdogan came out winning the round by an easily big margin—52.9% which saved him from taking the election to the second round, it would have been then between himself and Muharrem Ince with 30.6% votes in the second place—which might have been a bit tougher.
The results, in this case, have proven three things; that even though there has not been a massive percentage of votes to Ince, his party and his leadership did cause a big alarm for the ruling party because he can draw crowds, especially within some youth circles. It also goes on to show that the opposition is not yet dead, particularly from the Kurdish side because Selahittin Demirtas did make the competition more interesting, even though he only had 8.4% votes. Overall the election became not just an important one but a highly interesting one and went on to show democratic spirit and spared that Turkey does not really have a malfunctioned democracy, contrary to the belief of many.
As for the Parliamentary election, the People’s Coalition won even though the ruling AKP lost a lot of seats as well as the parliamentary majority. As a whole, the AKP secured 42.6% seats–a total of 295 seats. Had they been successful in attaining 301 seats they would have been successful in making the majority without the coalition. Surprisingly MHP attained 11.1% which is a total of 49 parliamentary seats and overall the People’s Alliance gained 53.7% seats. With 146 and 22.6% seats in the parliament is the CHP while the IYI Party attained 10% and 443 parliamentary seats which mean that as a whole the Nation’s Alliance secured 33.9% seats. The most interesting result happens to be of the pro-Kurdish party HDP who lost some core seats which they had in the previous elections but needed to gain a 10% threshold to have a good position in the parliament and they achieved that albeit easily and attained 11.7%–67 seats in the parliament.
Perhaps the most phenomenal thing which made this election monumental was not the results but the fact that the voter turnout was 87%. This voter turnout has been noted as a mammoth one for not just the Asian region but the European region as well as in many European states (not all) this percentage has not been ever reached. If anything this goes on to show one thing—that within the Turkish society there is a sound level of awareness regarding their rights as well as democracy.
Of course, this goes without saying that the election results will go on to hold certain prodigious impacts on not just the diplomatic front of Turkey but also in regional dynamics and the international ones. This is because these elections have now made Erdogan as a very important and perhaps the most powerful leader within Turkey after Ataturk. Much of this is because of the structural reforms which the new system has brought which have put a lot of power within Erdogan’s domain.
In the domestic realm, one of the core reasons as to why the snap elections were called was the stability in the political system. Then there was the idea of getting the economy on track while the power consolidation was also a motive. While the political stability may take some time, the political maturity which both the winning and the losing sides have shown after the result where both sides declared Turkey to be the winner goes on to show that this stability will not take a very long time to concede. Now a massive challenge is waiting for not just Erdogan but also the winning coalition as to how the Turkish economy will be steered back to normalcy. In actuality, both political and economic stability will go hand in hand and while after the initial results, the stock market did plummet—the five-year term will need to prove to the people that Turkey has the potential of alleviating its economy.
Interestingly there is going to be a keen and active opposition waiting for all policies matters because even a small mistake by the winning side can plunge the entire state into a chasm of political instability after which economic instability will automatically follow.
The Kurdish question will also become a very intriguing one especially since the pro-Kurdish party was able to secure important seats in the parliament. Of course, because of the new structure, there is more power resting with the President, this does not mean that these seats attained will not be making for a vocal opposition. In any case, for Turkey, the Kurdish puzzle remains to be a pertinent issue. Erdogan will probably need to calculate as to how to tackle this issue because up until now his policies have received some backlash, especially from the Western states. His approach towards the entire issue will probably not be changed but his policies might become more holistic.
This is largely because of the Kurdish role in the Syrian crisis and the Turkish role in the crisis has clashed before and will probably not stop there. For FETO, there is probably going to be more trouble because one of the very first things which the winning leader said was regarding the movement and how the ‘terrorist organization’ has lost. Not only that many representatives of the AKP claimed the same thing which has just further embedded the idea of FETO as a violent terrorist group within the population. After the massive purge post-2016 attempted a coup, this election result means that the policies regarding them will only get more intensified.
Perhaps two most prominent things will be seen after the election—the fact that conservatives are now again in power and that in Turkey around 65% electoral colleges also has strong affiliations with religion, the secular model has for now been put in the back. Second, there is now going to be another rise in Turk nationalism which was easily visible when the results were being declared. Now, in any policy these two things will be seen, either hidden or on the surface.
In terms of regional impacts—firstly, many European states did congratulate Erdogan on his win but it seemed that most of the wishes were half-hearted. Many analysts from the EU claim that an illiberal democracy with a leader having dictatorial tendencies has been given another term. This goes on to show that Erdogan’s relations which were soured previously will probably be hung at the same point for some time. One of the latest episodes which go on to prove that the closely followed future Turkey’s relations with some of the European states will continue to be at the same diplomatic severity is when one of the Austrian politicians has made anti-Erdogan remarks. This also shows the mistrust which is prevalent in Europe regarding the leadership of Erdogan. Not only is he now a man of big power but he is one who does not get along well with them.
In terms of the Middle East, this win legitimizes the sway of Erdogan and his policies with respect to the Syrian crisis. Had Erdogan lost the presidential election then the policies in terms of Russian cooperation, the intensity of Turkish involvement and the desire to push for influence might have become a lost cause? Furthermore, the elections perhaps are another way to claim that out of most regional states, Turkey can serve to present a different political model for democracy. Another interesting point is that Erdogan has vowed to work hard in the region to get rid of terrorist organizations and though his aim might be the PKK and their affiliates he has also hinted to further weaken ISIS. These elections prove one thing though, that now Turkish stay in the region will be a bit longer, more political and more security related.
As for Central Asia and Balkans, the thing will get interesting because Turkey will now be more interested to push for stronger trading relations with the CAR’s but in Balkans, the outcome might be divided.
For US and Russia, things have gotten interesting because the US has also shown interest to go for a rapprochement and go further in the strategic stream by getting more involved in military trade with Turkey. But the current power-play both Turkey and Russia have in Syria is also entirely a process which was headed by Erdogan himself. How much will his new term of five years be to impact the tug of power between the two big foreign powers and where does Erdogan now place him is a question left for a time.
In all of this, there is hope as well as nervousness as to how further can Turkey go under the new yet old leadership and can it attain a status of an influential power in the core regions of Central Asia and the Middle East. But there is a lesson to be learnt here, that of strong nationalism which is perhaps of the correct kind and political and even democratic maturity. For Pakistan, in the upcoming elections, this maturity by not just the winning side but the opposition who lost is a lesson which should be paid close attention to.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Amna Javed is a graduate of School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad. Presently she is engaged in her post-graduate research focused on Turkey