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Turkey in a week – June 25th, 2018

Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was reelected for a another five-year term, after securing 52.59% of the vote in the first round of the country’s presidential elections and the Erdogan-led People’s Alliance also secured the majority at the parliament. The June 24 snap elections, originally due on 3 November 2019, were held on Sunday with a very high turnout rate of 87.5%. Worsening economic conditions,, the colourless campaign of Erdoğan and the unexpected success of the presidential candidate Ince’s campaign made most observers and voters expect that no candidate can secure the necessary 51% of the vote in the first round and the country will very likely go for the second round to elect the president on July 8th. Contrary to the analysists’ predictions,  People’s Alliance (Justice and Development Party-AKP- and Nationalist Action Party-MHP) won the majority in the parliament with AKP’s 42.56% and MHP’s 11.10% of the vote. However, even if AKP will hold 295 seats, it has lost its parliamentary majority. With MHP’s 49 seats, People’s Alliance will have 344 of 600 seats.

AKP’s vote rate decreased from 49.5% in the November 1st 2015 elections to 42.56%. Even if People’s Alliance will have secured the majority, the People’s Alliance which held 64.9% of the seats in the previous parliament, will now have 57% of the total seats, 7 percentage points lower than the previous term. One of the critical point affecting the parliamentary election results most was if pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was going to pass the 10% threshold or not. With its leaders, numbers of MPs and even presidential candidate in prison, HDP still managed to hold 11.7% of the vote with the help of CHP voters. The opposition was hoping that if HDP passed the threshold, AKP and MHP would not reach the majority at the parliament. HDP overcoming the threshold was a big risk for AKP as demonstrated in a leaked video shows that Erdoğan persuades his party’s district officials to do whatever necessary to prevent HDP.

The opposition parties under Nation’s Alliance (Republican People’s Party-CHP-, Felicity Party-SP- and Good Party-Iyi Parti) will have 191 seats at the parliament.  Together with HDP seats, the opposition will control 43% of the total seats. However, observers insist that along with the presidential government system, the parliament with majority controlled by AKP and MHP will have much lower impact on the politics and legislation from now on.

Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate of Republican People’s Party (CHP) created a hope among the opposition supporters and secured 30.6% of the vote as expected. The rest of the opposition candidates, Selahattin Demirtaş, Meral Akşener and Temel Karamallaoğlu obtained 8.4%, 7.3% and 0.9% of the vote respectively.

Election security was hotly debated in public opinion and  concerns peaked at the election night. While Erdoğan and AKP figures were quick to announce their victory after the ballot boxes were opened, the main opposition party, CHP, did not first recognize the results broadcasted by the state-run Anadolu Agency, the only . CHP spokesman Bülent Tezcan said that Anadolu Agency broadcast was biased as it was giving first the results from the election districts where AKP and Erdoğan are the strongest to create an atmosphere that the battle is over, so that the ballot boxes that the opposition was monitoring and guarding, would be abandoned .

CHP created an alternative election watch system, called Fair Election Platform, as they suspected the government would do anything to manipulate the counting process and the results. This alternative system was supposed to provide the public the correct numbers without manipulation and these numbers were to be used to double-check the accuracy of the figures that Anadolu Agency announces. However, the Platform did not work properly and in a couple of hours CHP spokesman told the press that the figures they received were parallel with the results Anadolu Agency announced. Other than this statement, the opposition party leaders did not appear in front of the public except the scandalous private text message İnce sent to a journalist stating that “The man won”.

İnce made a press conference on  Monday, the day after the elections. While he reminded that the campaign process was not fair, he accepted the victory of Erdoğan and congratulated him. Although İnce congratulated Erdoğan, the Head of CHP, Kılıçdaroğlu. said that he will not congratulate Erdoğan because an autocracy enthusiast cannot be congratulated. Observers expect that a power struggle between Kılıçdaroğlu and İnce in CHP will very likely begin soon.

There seems to be an agreement among observers about the election results that the winners in the opposition side seem to be Muharrem İnce, HDP, and Meral Akşener. Muharrem İnce is taken now as the most popular political figure in Turkey after Erdoğan, who showed that the opposition can challenge the regime based on Erdoğan’s charisma. Even though the opposition parties and the supporters felt a big disappointment, they still think they have done their best under unequal conditions favouring Erdoğan and AKP in just 50 days. Another important observation about the results is that the nationalists are the majority in the parliament. Two openly nationalist parties MHP and İyi Party which was founded by ex-MHP members in addition to AKP make up 66% of the seats in the parliament. The commentators argue that AKP’s security based policies will not face a challenge in the parliament and will even receive greater support now.

The elections were held under the state of emergency. This alone casts a shadow over the legitimacy of the elections. However, as both the ruling party and the opposition forces seem to agree that the results are legitimate (even if almost half of the country does still not trust the official results), now all country is wondering if the states of emergency will ever be lifted. The future of the state of emergency was very important headline during the election campaign. The opposition insisted that AKP and Erdoğan are using it for their advantage to silence the opposition and even the economy has been affected negatively because the state of emergency does not provide the necessary credible conditions for any actor in the economy. As the opposition candidates all promised to lift the state of emergency as soon as they would be elected, at the last week before the elections Erdoğan also had to promise that he will end the state of emergency. The first comment on the state of emergency  after the elections came from the winner People’s Alliance Vice President of MHP, Mustafa Kalaycı. Kalaycı said the state of emergence should not be lifted. Now everybody wonders if Erdoğan will keep his promise or not despite this statement from his partner party as the extended period of the state of emergency will be over on July 18th if it is not extended once again.

The economy has been another hot topic during the election campaign. Turkish Lira dropped to record lows before the elections and the financial health of private sector companies with high FX debt became the main problem as the foreign capital inflows have been decreasing and interest rates kept increasing. Markets reacted to the election results positively first on Monday morning and Turkish Lira appreciated to 4.5 against the Dollar, however it was short lived and saw the before-election levels of 4.72 again. Some experts warn that the economy is approaching to a crisis and IMF’s door will be knocked by the government implying an austerity programme after the elections. With his renewed power, Erdoğan’s inclination to intervene into the economy creates further worries and credibility problems about the economy management. Now as the elections are over, all sides in the economy are waiting to see what sort of economy policies will be undertaken by Erdoğan and his cabinet.

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