The Turkish general elections held on June 7th proved to be one of the most critical in the nation’s history. For the first time in 13 years, the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) no longer holds the majority in parliament and for the first time ever, a pro-Kurdish party (The Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP) received enough votes to enter parliament. With this election, AKP is forced to build a coalition government or choose to remain as a minority government. Their loss of a single party majority means that they lost more than seats, it also means that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s favored party lost the numerical sway to swiftly amend the constitution and transition the government from a parliamentary system to one based on absolute presidential power.
Although AKP continues to hold political legitimacy among the public as they still maintain 41% of public support, HDP gained a pivotal 13% of the national vote. Pegged as the diverse party in parliament, HDP seeks to advance the rights of the most politically and socially repressed communities such as Kurds, women, and gays. The party’s agenda promotes bread-and-butter issues such as raising the minimum wage, promoting gender equality, and advocating for educational reform. Furthering their appeal among the larger and progressive leaning public, HDP is notably co-chaired by female representativeFigen Yüksekdağ, a woman’s rights activist, and Selahattin Demirtaş, a Kurdish human rights lawyer. Despite their public appeal, HDP faces an uphill battle within parliament when challenging larger, more established parties.
Despite being forced to abandon his hope for increased executive power,Erdoğan has gained international respect as he has publicly supported the democratic tenants of Turkey’s electoral system. He maintains that AKP only has 45 days to declare a new government but given the increase of opposition groups, it is not clear which parties other than the intense Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) would be willing to join forces with the hard-liner AKP.
If AKP cannot build a coalition government, then Erdoğan will ask the second leading (and AKP’s primary opposition) party—the historically secular Republican People’s Party (CHP)—to form a government. If given the option, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will rule out any coalition with the AKP. While AKP measures the challenges of having a minority government against building a coalition government, either option will warrant the same outcome. Minority governments are often too politically fragile to enact policies true to their objectives, and coalition governments often require moderating platforms to persuade other parties to collaborate. With a virtually nonexistent government,Erdoğan may have to exercise his constitutional right to call for early elections.
While partisan politics continue to dominate the headlines, it is also important to look further ahead and consider the challenges that the incoming government must tackle, particularly international economic challenges and the allocation of resources. Ironically, the reduction of AKP representatives presents further economic setbacks. Although this absence is caused by the constitutionally mandated three-term limit, the removal of senior officials in key economic positions will greatly challenge the skill set of the new economic leadership. Additionally, the economy continues to be in flux as the value of the lira continues to depreciate in correlation to the unstable political scene.
With decreasing international economic presence, this reality challenges Turkey’s status as the Middle East’s largest economy and its increasing identity as a donor state. Another strain on Turkey is the ongoing issue of resource allocation as it must consider the 2 million Syrian refugees displaced by ISIS within its borders. In order to effectively mitigate these long-term problems, it is not too far fetched that a more diverse incoming government could benefit from a perspective more representative of the Turkish public.