Erdogan will need opposition support despite clear win
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party was the clear winner of this weekend’s Turkish elections. But the party failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to push through constitutional reform, a key plank of his election campaign.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has secured a third term in power after a resounding election victory that saw half the country’s voters support his AKP party.
In a parliament of 550 seats, the AKP has 326 from just over 50% of the vote (Turkey has a proportional representation system). But it fell short of the two-thirds majority it needs to change a constitution that dates back to the 1980 military coup.
“This was an impressive win for Erdogan,” said Dorothée Schmidt, a Turkey expert at the Paris-based French Institute for International Relations (IFRI). “He says that one in two voters supported him, but he remains unable to change the constitution,” she added.
Worse, the AKP is even below the 330-seat threshold needed to call a referendum on amendments to the constitution.
“The constitutional issue was the top issue in the debate leading up to the election,” said Turkey specialist Ariane Bonzon of Slate.fr. “This will now be his biggest challenge.”
Erdogan wants a new liberal constitution for EU-hopeful Turkey to replace the current one. Although the exact nature of the AKP’s constitutional plans is not clear, France 24’s International Politics specialist Mathieu Mabin said Erdogan wants to move from the current parliamentary system to a presidential system similar to the French.
The opposition fears such a move by Erdogan’s party, which is conservative and rooted in Islamism, would undermine Turkey’s hard-won democracy and give too much power to one man.
Following the AKP’s win, Erdogan said he was confident he could negotiate with the opposition.
“The people have given us a message that the new constitution should be made through compromise, consultation and negotiation," Erdogan said in his victory speech on Sunday night. “We will not close our doors and (instead) go to the opposition.”
But if Erdogan is ready to negotiate, the question is: with whom?
The secularist opposition Republican People's Party CHP won 25.9% of the vote, followed by the hardline Nationalist Action Party (MHP), which got 13%.
Aside from the AKP, Sunday’s big winner was the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which won 36 seats (up from 20) and could end up playing a key role in constitutional negotiations.
“The Kurds are better represented now than they have ever been,” said RFI correspondent in Turkey Jerome Bastion, talking on FRANCE 24. “It will allow them to advance their cause of recognition as a distinct ethnic group, in particular by working to soften the nationalist tone of the current constitution.”
According to Bastion, the failure to secure the two-thirds majority the AKP needed to change the constitution will force Erdogan’s party to address the sensitive issue of Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
“If Erdogan takes significant steps with the Kurdish issue, he will get their support,” Bastion said.
But even if Erdogan says he is ready to negotiate, the country’s opposition media remain sceptical as to how much ground he is really willing to give to his opponents.
“If Erdogan wants to govern peacefully he would do well to remember that while he got 50% of the vote, the other 50% voted against him,” wrote columnist Mehmet Yilmaz in Monday’s Hurriyet newspaper.