Yaşar Yakış
Jun 28 2018

Turkey's challenges after the June 24 elections

After the June 24 elections several political parties in Turkey rightly claimed success. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emerged as an unchallenged leader. His major rival, Muharrem Ince, in his address to the media after the election, said the presidential race took place under uneven conditions and that there was vote rigging, but conceded defeat.

The biggest surprise was the success of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) that won 11 percent of the votes. Many analysts believe that the major extra support came from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), because the MHP needed reach the 10 percent threshold to form a group in parliament.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is undoubtedly the biggest winner. While many observers feared the party would remain under the 10 percent threshold that is necessary to be represented in the Turkish parliament, the HDP fared well and won 67 seats with 11.6 percent of the vote.

The support for the party was above that for its former leader Selahattin Demirtaş in the presidential race, but this is due to the main opposition party’s support for the HDP to reach the 10-percent threshold. There was no need to extend similar support to the leader of the party since his election as president of the republic was not likely. Another reason for CHP supporters to vote for the HDP is that, if the HDP’s votes were to remain under the threshold, it would not be represented in the parliament and its votes would be distributed proportionally among the parties that made their way to the parliament and the AKP would take the biggest share from this re-distribution. The AKP won 290 seats in a parliament of 600 seats. If the HDP were to fail, out of 67 seats that it won, around 60 would be allocated to the AKP and it would get the absolute majority of the seats. It now needs at least 10 more votes in order to pass any law.

The ruling party’s vote went down, but this loss is attributed to some AKP supporters possibly having voted for the MHP to allow it to reach the 10-percent threshold.

The ruling party will be tested with three major challenges in the forthcoming parliamentary term: the economy, the MHP and the Kurdish issue.

The fragility of the country’s economy is growing. The populist promises made by the government to temporarily alleviate voters’ economic problems in the run up to the elections will put an additional burden on the national budget. The bill for this extravagant spending has to be paid now. As if this were not enough, there will be municipal elections in March next year. The pre-election period requires again populist public spending that will alleviate voters’ problems for a short period, but will have negative consequences in the medium term, and definitely during the next parliamentary term that starts now.

The second challenge is that the government will become heavily dependent on the MHP’s support for passing any law. While the steering wheel and the gas pedal of the car will be controlled by the ruling party, the brake will be controlled by the MHP. This makes the ruling party a lame duck in many initiatives. The area where the MHP has the most inflexible attitude is on Kurdish policy.

The strong support extended to the pro-Kurdish HDP is a borrowed support. Voters will now expect the HDP to take steps to distance itself from the terrorist organisation, the PKK. In the past, HDP leader Demirtaş tried to explain his difficulties by drawing attention to the overlapping areas in the grassroots of his party and that of the PKK terrorist organisation. The MHP will not let the ruling party make any minute concession for the handling of the Kurdish issue unless it gets all it wants from the government. Coupled with the limping cooperation with the United States on the Syrian Kurdish issue, the present distribution of the seats in the Turkish parliament does not augur well for making progress in Turkey’s Kurdish problem.