As the Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to a single-party majority for the fourth time since 2002, this was much to the surprise of many.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP won 316 seats in parliament in stark contracts to June elections.
The snap elections would afford a second chance to make amends and coalition talks were always going to collapse. It was merely months between the elections but many key events transformed the picture on the ground.
Erdogan argued that only the AKP could provide elusive stability at a time of increasing security threats and chaos and the people were seemingly swayed by this stance.
Turkey witnessed deadly Islamic State (IS) inspired bomb attacks, joined the war against IS, saw media raids on opposition media outlets linked to Fethullah Gulen but above all it was the restart of the war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that changed the dynamic.
Without a doubt, the rise of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) led by Selahattin Demirtaş, gaining 13% of the vote in the June elections that directly led to AKP’s loss of the parliamentary majority.
The renewed violence with the PKK, which resulted in deepening unrest in the south-east, curfews and dozens of tit-for-tat killings, become a noose to tie around the HDP.
And it’s no coincidence that the AKP took significant votes from the HDP, who crucially still surpassed the 10% threshold to enter parliament, and also the anti-Kurdish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Ultimately, it was the millions of undecided voters that transformed the electoral landscape, opting for stability of a single-party rule against fragile coalition governments that have traditional failed in Turkey, amidst new regional sandstorms.
Erdogan used the security chaos to good affect but once the dust settles what kind of Turkey will be left?
First of all, for all of AKP’s significant support, the other 50% or so are deeply against them. With media raids before and after the elections setting a marker for dealing with Gulen-backed opposition, Erdogan is in no mood to relinquish his quest to eradicate the “parallel state” that he firmly believes is undermining government.
Secondly, Erdogan promised to continue the campaign against the PKK until the organization was “eliminated”.
Finally, Erdogan has made no secret of his desire to change the constitution to afford the presidency the power he craves. He is 14 seats short of the 330 seats needed to call a referendum on constitutional change but faces fierce opposition.
Above all, this leaves a Turkey that is as polarized as ever. There are more questions than answers despite the AKP’s sweep to power.
Does it indefinitely insist on a military solution against the PKK even when decades of such a formula have proved fruitless? How about the millions of Kurds that feels trapped between PKK violence and harsh government policies that ultimately voted for the stability of AKP?
The Kurdish question is not just a PKK question. Further democratic reforms are urgently needed to appease sliding Kurdish sentiment.
Then there is the fight against IS. For too long Turkey sat on the fence and the IS problem on its doorstep will only get worse. Turkey may want stability at home but it has to make tough calls to achieve this.
Insisting that the Syrian Kurdish forces, who are key players against IS, are no different to the PKK or not accepting the reality of Kurdish autonomy across the Syrian border, benefits no side.
Economic and foreign relation challenges only add to the complex picture.
Erdogan needs to make tough decisions if he is to bring Turkey the stability he preaches.
First Published: Kurdish Globe
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc