Will June 7th Relieve Turkey of the Erdoğan Depression?

Evin Cheikosman

By Evin Cheikosman:

We are six days away from one of the most significant parliamentary elections in late Turkish political history. This election is crucial for two main reasons. The first: it will determine whether Turkey will go from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential system – the latter of which will award Turkish President Erdoğan the opportunity to finally draft a new Turkish constitution that will grant him more governmental power. The second reason: it will determine whether the Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), competing for the first time as a party, will be able to pass the required ten percent threshold of popular vote. These are the two fundamental debates at the forefront of Turkey’s parliamentary elections; whichever one prevails will mark a historic moment for a better or worse Turkish nation.

Most polls I’ve come across indicate that President Erdoğan’s Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will win, however this year’s election is unlike the golden years from 2011 to 2014 when votes for the AKP were over fifty percent. Now, according to a survey by pollster SONAR, AKP support is at about 41 percent, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) at 26 percent, the nationalist MHP at 18.1 percent and the pro-Kurdish HDP at 10.4 percent, a little above the 10 percent threshold required to enter parliament.

Nevertheless these elections are much more than percentages, it is also about the number of seats. Turkey’s parliament has 550 seats and how many of those seats will be won by AKP is an important question.

In order for the AKP to form another one-party government it needs to win half of the seats in the Turkish parliament plus one; this means 276 seats. Some are opposed to this outcome because they fear that Erdoğan will be given free rein to absolute autocratic power over Turkey. Taking into account the manner by which he dealt with the Gezi protests in 2013, the series of scandals emerging from his backyard, and the fact that Turkey supersedes some of the worst nations in the world in terms of the number of imprisoned journalists it has; it is no surprise that a new presidential system and constitution in Erdoğan’s favor will bring about more of these past incidents…if not worse.

However if the AKP cannot win 276 seats, it cannot form a government of its own. This would lead Turkey to a coalition government which we have not seen in 14 years, in which the AKP will have to partner up with another party to form a government. This would complicate the constitutional changes that Erdoğan so desperately wants to create. Many of the opposition parties have already expressed their unwillingness to ally with the AKP should this happen; one of the most vocal against this possibility being the HDP.

The fate of the fourth largest party in the Turkish political realm, the HDP, which has already passed the 10 percent threshold to enter parliament by just a bit, will be critical not just for Turkey’s Kurds but also for the political future of President Erdoğan and the AKP. Should the HDP continue to cross the barrier, it could take 50 seats from the AKP, potentially causing the AKP to lose its majority. The AKP managed to receive the majority of votes and form governments independently in the past three elections; however polls suggest that increasing support for the HDP may cause the AKP to lose its majority in the June 7 elections.

Thus we are seeing many newly anti-AKP people turning over their vote to the HDP, wary of the political aspirations of an autocratic leader who once used to be an asset for the country and now has become a liability. From countless evidence of Turkey’s assistance to ISIS (debating otherwise is plain negligence at this point), a stalled Kurdish-Turkish peace process, its slowly debilitating economy, increasing inflation, a falling Lira, a growing unemployment rate currently at 9.9% (in Kurdish-dominated southeast Turkey it is 15.6%), and not to mention its now negative image on the world stage; voters are more aware of the increasing risk of feeding a hot-tempered Erdoğan power vacuum that has been growing greedier since his presidential inauguration in 2014. But, just to be fair, Erdoğan has been making a very attractive promise to voters, “[i]f you give me the powers I’m asking for, I can boost gross domestic product from $11,000 per capita today to $25,000 in eight years”; so, if some of you are still on the fence, maybe the economic, political, and social state of the country now can be forgiven with this powerful vow.

It is a very suspenseful time which will determine the fate of Turkey, Erdoğan, the Kurds, and whether or not this country can recover from the “Erdoğan depression” and get back on track to being the world’s model Euro-Islamist nation.

Evin Cheikosman is a Kurd living in Los Angeles, CA, A recent graduate in International Politics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, she has studied abroad in Berlin, Germany and will soon be traveling to Zhuhai, China on a teaching assignment. Thereafter she will be pursuing a masters degree in foreign affairs. During her free time, Evin posts facts and opinions concerning Kurdish politics on her blog: Minority Politico

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