Turkey: Elections under the shadow of violence

The elections held on November 1, 2015 resulted in a huge success for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its “former” leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The AKP increased its votes almost all over the country and gained parliamentary majority which it had lost at the June 7 elections.

According to the unofficial results, the ruling party AKP raised its votes from 40.9% to 49.34% and secured 317 seats in the parliament. The main opposition party, the centre-left Peoples Republican Party (CHP) got 25.3% of the votes and gained 134 seats (25% and 132 seats were the case in the  June 7 elections), the votes of far right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) dramatically dropped,  from 16.3% to 11.9% and seats from 80 to 40. The real winner of the last elections, the leftist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), lost 2.3% of its votes and got 10.8%, which led to 59 seats in the parliament.
The elections held under difficult conditions for the opposition parties as the international observers confirmed in their reports: "the challenging security environment, particularly in the southeast of the country, coupled with a high number of violent incidents, including attacks against party members, premises and campaign staff, hindered contestants’ ability to campaign freely."[1]
Here is a more detailed account of what the international observers strive to express:
After June 7, when the AKP lost its parliamentary majority; the government stopped the peace process and started war with the PKK. Curfew was declared in several Kurdish cities for days, where the HDP took more than 80% of the votes. During this period, tens of people, including babies and children, were killed by security forces. Moreover, 132 people were killed in two separate suicide bombings (in Suruç and Ankara); almost 200 HDP offices including its headquarters in Ankara were attacked (burned, stoned, fired at, looted etc.) in western Turkey; thousands of HDP members and activists were taken under custody, with more than 500 of them being arrested, 22 mayors (all of them from Kurdish cities) were unseated by courts and the ministry of interior. The HDP had to cancel all its rallies due to security concerns.
According to the data of Radio and Television Supreme Council, in the last 25 days, TV channels live broadcasted about the AKP for 138 hours while the HDP got only 6 hours. None of the HDP co-chairs was invited to TV programs during the elections campaign, which points to the de facto embargo on HDP officials in both state and private media outlets.
Under these harsh conditions, the HDP lost about 1 million of its votes, dropped to 10.8% and gained 59 seats. Despite this decrease, the HDP is still by far in the first place in predominantly Kurdish provinces. By gaining more seats than the MHP, it has become the third party and will continue to be the most fervent and, this time, more powerful advocate of rights and liberties in the parliament. 
The ruling party AKP reached 49.3% by getting new votes mostly from the MHP and some from the HDP. By employing nationalist rhetoric and using the war with the PKK, the AKP managed to attract about 4% of the MHP votes, mostly from inlands where the population is generally characterized as extremely nationalist and religious. Moreover, the AKP, using terror and fear tactics, managed to appeal to some Kurds who voted for the first time for the HDP in the June 7 elections, and got around 2% of the HDP votes in predominantly Kurdish regions.
Despite softening its rhetoric on secularism and strengthening its economical promises, the CHP failed to attract new voters and got almost the same percentage of the votes. They have secured 2 more seats than the last elections and will remain as the main opposition party.
The MHP, rejecting all the negotiations about forming a governing coalition or supporting a minority government of CHP after the June 7 elections, paved the way for the November 1 elections. The MHP’s negative stance and locking up the political processes as well as the AKP’s new hard line position against the Kurdish problem lie beneath the loss of MHP votes to the AKP.
Now there will be a single party government of AKP that has hardened its stance against Kurds both in Turkey and Syria, strengthened its religious position and freed itself of corruption allegations for the time being. They gained the power to change the laws by themselves in order to push the de-facto “Presidency” of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This will increase the already high political and social polarisation in the country in addition to the on-going Kurdish problem.
In this darkening climate of Turkey, the HDP will continue to be the voice of workers, minorities and the oppressed.


[1] Turkey, Early Parliamentary Elections, 1 November 2015: Statement of Preliminary Findings and ConclusionsTurkey, Early Parliamentary Elections, 1 November 2015: Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions