Turkey’s Electoral Maelstrom        

3 Jul



If I were Turkish, and not merely a sympathetic observer and part time resident, I would write an Open Letter to the opposition political parties that had separately and collectively achieved several goals in the June 7th elections:

            –repudiating Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s push for a constitutional shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system;

            –for the Kurdish-based HDP, a significant gain in support to cross the 10% threshold, and get a rather large foot in the Parliament;

            –for the ultra-nationalist MHP to achieve a significant gain in electoral support;

            –for the secular stronghold of Kemalist republicanism CHP maintenance of their position as by far the strongest opposition party by almost 10% over their nearest competitor.


Since arriving in Turkey a couple of weeks ago, the media is filled with a wide range of informed speculations about what will happen, as well as vigorous advocacy about what is best for the country, for the AKP, and for the various parties and political personalities, and none more so, than the diverse passions that swirl around the name Erdoğan. In such an atmosphere it seems foolhardy to venture into such roiled waters. My only advantages the absence of access to insider gossip and great sympathy with the struggle of Turkey and its leaders to find their way in a chaotic and dangerous region at a time of a deepening global crisis fraught with ecological, political, and economic uncertainties.



The situation created in Turkey by the elections was one that continued the AKP (Justice & Development Party) as the dominant political party, with 40.9% of the vote, an edge of more than 15% over the CHP (Republican Peoples’ Party) winning 25.0% of the vote. Despite dominating the election and winning 256 seats, the AKP still fell short of the majority of representatives in the 550 seat Parliament required to achieve a mandate to form a new government without entering into a coalition with one of the three parties that together gathered almost 60% of the votes in June. This leaves essentially two broad coalition options—either the AKP forms a coalition with one of the three opposition parties or the opposition parties unite in a three-way coalition (as no two of the three parties have enough representation in Parliament to make a majority).




So far neither alternative has proved feasible. The AKP has seemed quietly receptive, promising transparency in the process, but has made clear that it is not responsive to proposals that seem disproportionate to the electoral showing of the purported junior partner. When the CHP leader, Kemal Kiliçdaroğlu, demands that it will only enter a coalition if the prime minister is rotated, and starts with himself as prime minister, he reaches so high as to effectively declare himself out of the game. Similarly, when the MHP insists that its entry into a coalition with the governing depends on ending the peace process with Kurds that the AKP began, it is expressing unacceptable demands for a coalition partnership. Moving forward on Kurdish reconciliation is urgent at this time as a breakdown of negotiations is likely to lead to a renewal of internal violence, which given the regional realities, could spill across boundaries and be even bloodier than the earlier decade of struggle with the PKK. Finally, the DHP, perhaps understandably, sees no gain for its prospects arising from a coalition given the hostility to Kurdish aspirations exhibited by AKP leaders during the electoral campaign and considering the hardline taken by the MHP against even a moderate accommodation with Kurdish expectations.





This gridlocked situation is adverse to Turkey’s national economic and political interests. Already the World Bank has adjusted downward its forecasts of Turkish economic growth in light of this ambience of uncertainty surrounding Ankara’s governing process, and this situation is likely to worsen if no government is formed within the 45 day window allowed for a coalition process to reach closure.


It is in this context that the opposition parties stand to lose all that they appeared to have gained on June 7th. If as seems likely there is no coalition formed by the deadline, then the options open to President Erdoğan are eager to invite the AKP to form a minority government or to call for new elections in the shortest possible time. The minority government option, which Prime Minister Davutoğlu has pronounced as unworkable, would also in all probability lead to new elections rather soon, but maybe not immediately. The political process would be very fragile. Whenever the AKP failed to win parliamentary support from any one of the three opposition groups to support its policy initiatives, the government would be paralyzed by inaction, and a call for new elections would be quickly forthcoming.


It is this likely, but still avoidable, failed coalition scenario, that remains threatening to the hopes of opposition forces. In the event that no coalition is formed, and new elections are held, the most probable outcome, although this interpretation is contested, is a big swing of more pragmatically inclined voters toward the AKP. After all, for the Turkish economy to fulfill its potential it definitely needs a government firmly in place as soon as possible, and only the AKP on its own or in stable coalition can achieve this result. Given such a perception, the logical step for a Turkish citizen would be to vote for the AKP even if it wasn’t her or his first choice in June. What is more, such a transfer of votes to the AKP could have two other results, possibly depriving the HDP of its parliamentary representation by reaching a level in this second cycle that fell below the 10% threshold, thereby giving the AKP enough electoral strength not only to resume its role as majority party but to allow Erdogan to press forward with his ambition to convert Turkey into a presidential system. Both the CHP and MHP could also do worse on a second go around, and this would certainly dim their stars.


Of course, this outcome, while logical is by no means assured. Voters in the sort of polarized atmosphere that has existed in Turkey during the whole of the AKP period of governance, leads many Turks to vote with their hearts rather than their heads. If this turns out to be the dominant pattern, then it is quite possible that this second electoral cycle will resemble the first, possibly strengthening the incentives of both the AKP and the opposition to swallow some pride and reach a workable set of coalition arrangements. Or it might accentuate the dysfunctionality of Turkish political culture at this point, leading to a sharp economic downturn accompanied by a menacing uptick in political instability, including new signs of insurgent violence.


Here, then, is the essential situation: above all, if reason prevails, most Turks will likely increasingly act to create the conditions necessary to form a majority government, and in the process could deprive the country of two achievements attributed to the prior election—minority representation for the Kurds and others plus a curtailment of the ambition of its current president. With this understanding, the unwillingness of opposition parties to minimize their bargaining demands to form a coalition seems unfortunate and even irrational under present conditions, making much more likely an overall outcome that will not be pleasing to anti-AKP forces for one or another reason. It is especially likely that this post-election impasse could give new life to the Erdoğan game plan to revise the Constitution so as establish a presidential system.


Such reflections may turn out to be far from the manner in which the Turkish political scene unfolds. It purports only to share my attempt to comprehend a situation that seems complex and confusing to most Turks. Americans are notorious at getting non-Western societies wrong, and I do not claim to be an exception, which is part of the reason I have spent many of my adult years opposing American military interventions in distant lands.


11 Responses to “Turkey’s Electoral Maelstrom        ”

  1. Harvey Epstein July 3, 2015 at 7:19 am #

    The point you miss is: Erdogan seeks not a presidential government, but an Islamic Chaliphate with himself as the Chalif. That is the endgame. When the economy turns down (in the absence of a coalition government being formed by the opposition parties) and Erdogan is president/Chalif then the only entity that has any chance of getting Turkey back on track is the now partially emasculated military (that emasculation having been one of his accomplishments to date). Absent a new Ataturk, the future of Turkey is not a bright one. Erdogan is smarter than his Egyptian counterpart Morsi, but I have a strong hunch that the result will be the same. The question is: who will be the Sisi for Turkey and can he make peace with the Kurds ( because Erdogan never could or will).

    • Richard Falk July 3, 2015 at 8:54 am #

      I deeply disagree with this line of thinking, which seems based on a mixture of anti-Erdogan propaganda
      and secular paranoia. In 13 years in control of the governing process there have been only the most modest
      reforms that could be called favorable to Islamic values. Turkey remains a society firmly affirming its
      secular diversity. And as for the challenge of reconciliation with the Kurds, it is too early to tell, especially
      given the regional turbulence.

  2. Harvey Epstein July 3, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    As usual, we must agree to disagree. Many commentators agree with me. As soon as the economy goes “south” , so will the country. Perhaps your relationship with their leadership “taints” your views. Erdogon is a solid MB member. He is smarter than Sissi because he moves with more common sense. Do you forget that he has said that he looks forward to the caliphate. Certainly he is seeking a one man rule. Failure to realize this is not to understand Turkey. In the last election, is that not what most Turks saw?

    Absolutely I do not like Erdogon nor do I believe for one moment that Turkey is truly secular. In 1914 10% of the population was Christian and now only 1% is. The almost 100,000 Jews who were there in 1948 are now down to 17,000 of mostly older folks. The Kurds are under pressure, etc.

    Look around you.

    • Richard Falk July 4, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

      Yes, you are right. We look at similar realities, but seem to see differently. Indeed, very differently.

      Erdogan is a complex political figure who generates contradictory attitudes, but your sense of his worldview does not correspond with mine.

      The AKP during its 13 years in power has done more for minorities in the country, including the Kurds, than any leader since the founding of
      the republic.

  3. rehmat1 July 4, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

    Dr. Falk, how about telling neo-Kemalist Erdogan to listen to his religious-base, STOP bloodshed of Syrian Muslims and Christians to please the US and Israel.

    AKP lost its majority due to Erdogan’s obsession with Syrian regime – period.

    Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP), is very critical of AKP’s Syrian policy. He recently said that AKP’s policy on Syria “was short-sighted and has already collapsed”.

    Some Turkish analyst believe that if Bashar al-Assad is not removed from power by the pro-Israel rebel groups in the next month or so – AKP will reverse its policy on Syria in order to shore-up its declining vote bank.


    • Kata Fisher July 4, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

      Rehmat1, I have been meditating on few things. One thing that I was meditating on was the reason for spiritual and natural destruction of Muslim people (Middle East). The reality can become unimaginable, and not acceptable. It is very much possible that Zionist movement is fulfilling Islamic prophetic and/or coded Scripure. Holy Quran is not dicerned propphesy in the Church age, and there is so much to that is best for everyone to yield to spiritual things of others – only then we can see the progress. For Muslims is best to drop secularism and get back to fundimentals of Islam as Faith of Peace. I am afraid that Muslims are under spiritual and natural destruction because they were / are hindering spiritual things – and secularisam is — or becomes only way to achive spiritual things. A note: I believe Iran’s Supreme Leader shoul ask Muslims in ME to sort things out, and he has to help them do that. There is too much going on and this chaos has to be stoped. Secularisam took on stronghold where it should have not (Arab spiritual and natural territories). I have no other understanding for this but one — issues with Holy Land and Zionist Movment. In Churh Age Jewish/Hebrew Israel people are in specific order (Civil-Eccalistical order). They are both Civil order as well as Eclesialistical. Zionisam may be civil in undertaking – but it is Eccalistical at the same time. At the same time this Zionist movement is fulfilling Islamic Scripure – while this movement is hindered by Muslims – who do not have full acess to the codes of Holy Quran. I hope you can understand this. Anoter note: I used my phone to write this. I will not re-read this and proofread. However, thise things were on my mind.

      • rehmat1 July 5, 2015 at 3:24 am #

        Fisher – As I told you on my blog long time ago that I have no time talking to the holy Wailing Wall, behind which you hide yourself.

        Muslims established great empires in in Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, India and Spain which provided your ancestors privileges which they couldn’t dream in Europe during the last 19 centuries.

        Learn truth from fellow US-Israeli Jewish Norman Gershman, who says: “To me Islam is poetry. is science, is to be with the Divine. Islam is beauty.”


      • Kata Fisher July 5, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

        Rehmat1: I do not recal that I ever did write @ your blog. When was that – can you remind me? I do not recal argument about that.

    • Richard Falk July 4, 2015 at 11:22 pm #


      Please do not send comments with that contain messages of ethnic hatred. These have no place on this website.

      There is much speculation here in Turkey, and throughout the region, much of it wrong. Whatever else one might
      say about Erdogan he is not a ‘neo-Kemalist,’ e.g. their views of state-society relations with respect to religion
      are contradictory.

      On Syria, all political actor misjudged the conflict early on, and have been trying to correct their initial mistakes.
      This includes Turkey, U.S., Russia, and Iran.

  4. rehmat1 July 6, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    Karta Fisher, next time you’re going to tell us that Moses never received Ten Commandment.


    • Kata Fisher July 6, 2015 at 9:11 pm #


      What can we say about Law of Moses? Who has ever kept the Law of Moses?

      One can fake Law of Moses to them self and never will make it.

      However, Law of Christ can not be faked. What do I know about Commandments that God gave to Moses and their purpose?

      It is written in the Gospel that they unreasonably used a woman that was abused in order to trick Him with the issues concerning the Commandments of God. Who was the woman?

      Magdalene (Mary) occurs 12 times in the Gospel reading – according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (in all four Gospels if you look all references).

      Magdalene (Mary) was close to the passion and to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – I believe that she could even feel the same pangs of pain as she watched crucifixion go on.

      It was not written down which woman cleaned the face of Christ Jesus when he fell on the way to Calvary (and with the Cross). We do know that he fell three times.

      Magdalene (Mary) and woman without a name – both of these women took part in the compassion of Jesus Christ.

      Over the years – I listened to confessions before; sometimes face to face with broken down or confused grown-ups…not even my close friends – never bothered me.

      However, I will never hope for or receive one in my own will-power. Law of Moses is not irrelevant – but it is fulfilled by the Comandment of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Spirit. Is the Law of Moses irrelevant (as just as it was not received?) We have to say that Moses did receive the Tablets and the Commands of God. But those who are under the Law of God’s Spirit are in will of God. I am not part of particular order or community (political). I did see people repent and give up their way.

      Those who resist the presence of God most are the one who end up loving God most. God just has His way with them. Thanks for storytelling, truly interesting.

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