Why Turkey's election doesn't matter
[...] The focus is not the usual one on "Who will form the next government?" Analysts agree that the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), in power since 2002, will win again. But will it have to sign up a junior partner? Will it win sufficient seats to change the constitution and fulfill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's plan to turn his position from a largely symbolic one into a fully executive position?Sounds pretty grim. But is it really that bleak? The election has happened now, and the results are in:
Erdoğan wants powers so wide reaching that he actually compares them to those wielded by absolute Saudi monarchs. Ironically, those powers would be extracted from the prime minister, which position Erdoğan filled for eleven years until last August, when he voluntarily ceded the position to a hand-picked successor, a mild-mannered academic, and moved over to the grander but far less powerful presidency.
Expressed numerically, the question fascinating Turks is whether the AKP will win a one-seat majority (276 seats out of 550) to rule alone, the 3/5s majority (330 seats) enabling it to change the constitution pending a public referendum, or the 2/3s majority (367 seats) required to change it unilaterally.
The main drama concerns a new party, the leftist, Kurdish-oriented Peoples' Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi, or HDP): Will it manage to reach the world's highest threshold of 10 percent of the total vote and enter parliament, in this, its first national campaign? If yes, it will could deprive the AKP of its majority 276 seats; if no, the AKP will likely reach that number and maybe even the magic 330.
But where others find high drama, I see near-tedium, and for two reasons. First, the AKP has used ballot-box shenanigans and other dirty tricks in the past; many indications point to its preparing to do so again, especially in Kurdish-majority districts.
Second, since the moment Erdoğan's presidency began nine months ago, he has behaved as though his wished-for constitutional changes had already been effected; he has chaired cabinet meetings, chose AKP candidates, leaned on the judiciary, and deployed a bevy of "czars" to compete with the prime minister's staff. He is lord of all he surveys.
He also blatantly defies the ban on political activities by the president, illegally stumping the country, worshipful governmental media at his disposal, Koran often in hand, urging citizens to vote AKP and thereby enhance his powers as cumhurbaşkan.
As he transforms a flawed democracy and NATO ally into a rogue state, ostrich-like Western governments sentimentally pretend it's still the 1990s, with Ankara a reliable ally, and abet his growing despotism.
Therefore, I conclude, how many seats the AKP wins hardly matters. Erdoğan will barrel, bulldoze, and steamroll his way ahead, ignoring traditional and legal niceties with or without changes to the constitution. Sure, having fully legitimate powers would add a pretty bauble to his résumé, but he's already tyrant and Turkey's course is set.
Being a brilliant domestic operator and also an egomaniac in a tinderbox of a region suggests where Erdoğan's future troubles lie – abroad. Under his leadership, Ankara suffers poor to terrible relations at present with nearly the entire neighborhood, including Moscow, Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Athens, the Republic of Cyprus, and even with the new leader of Turkish Cyprus. [...]
Turkey election: Erdoğan accepts no party has mandate to govern alone
The election result brought forth an embryonic new Turkey, but not the one the president wanted.
It produced what is tantamount to a cultural revolution in Turkish political life. Women will pour into the 550-seat parliament in Ankara in unprecedented numbers, 98 up from 79. Openly gay candidates won seats for the HDP. Most of all, the long-repressed Kurdish minority (one in 5 citizens) will be properly represented in the parliament for the first time with 80 seats.
“This is the first time that feminists in Turkey actively supported a political party,” said feminist activist Mehtap Dogan. “Up until now we have always done politics on our own, away from parliament. But this time we ran a campaign supporting the HDP because we believed in their sincerity when it comes to defending the rights of women, LGBTs and ethnic minorities.”
The HDP is the first party to introduce a quota of 50% female politicians, and all party offices and HDP-run municipalities are chaired by both a man and a woman.
The party’s successful attempt to break out of ethnic identity politics and broaden its appeal well beyond the Kurdish issue owes much to leader Selahattin Demirtas’ magnetism and his message of outreach.
But the mass protest movement born in a central Istanbul park two years ago and which mushroomed into national protests which Erdogan crushed mercilessly also fed in to the HDP’s support.
“During the Gezi [park] protests, many got an idea of what Kurds had to go through for years: the violence, the repression, the unjust arrests. It opened our eyes to the Kurdish suffering,” said Dogan. “At the same time, we saw how the pro-government press tried to turn our legitimate, peaceful protests into acts of terrorism.”
Just as Erdogan branded the protesters two years ago “riff-raff”, “terrorists” and “foreign agents”, in the election campaign he stoked division and malice by repeatedly smearing his HDP opponents as “terrorists, marginals, gays and atheists.”
He asked religiously conservative voters not to cast their ballots for “such people who have nothing to do with Islam.”
The tactic backfired as many religiously conservative Kurds shifted their votes from the AKP to a party that promised to represent everyone’s interests. [...]
Erdoğan may well try to push ahead anyway, but it won't be easy for him, he will have opposition. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
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