After five months, Turkey is heading for a snap election on November 1st.
Voters brought the governing Justice and Development (AK) Party’s 13 years of one-party rule to an end and the leaders of the main party were forced to form a coalition. Talks led by Prime Minister Davutoğlu failed and the president decided to hold another election, instead of giving the mandate to main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.Voters will go to the polls from 08:00 AM till 17:00 and the votes will be counted after the end of polling.
Q: Why do they matter?
The elections are important not only for Turkey but for Europe and Turkey’s neighbours. Europe faces its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War and Turkey is a key country for managing the flows of people. This is why Turkey’s political stability is important. Also, the tension in Syria and the latest Russian initiative to strengthen the Assad regime means Turkey has a key role to play in this crisis.
For Turks, however, other domestic matters are much more important. Many people see the snap election as an attempt by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to adopt a more presidential style of government.
Some of the president’s opponents believe he is behind the recent escalation in tension between the Turkish government and the PKK. It is an attempt, so it is said, to push the pro-Kurdish HDP down to the national threshold of ten percent. The Kurds failing to get into parliament would give the president a constitutional majority in the house. This way, he would have the authority to bring in a presidential-style system.
The election also has consequences for the fate of the Kurds. Talks collapsed after the PKK declared that it planned to attack dams and government constructions. This was followed by the atrocity in Suruç near the Syrian town of Kobani, where more than 34 people were killed by a suicide bomber thought to be a member of ISIL.
The PKK started to kill Turkish police officers and soldiers while Turkish airplanes struck at PKK camps at Qandil in northern Iraq. The make-up of the government will determine the future direction of the peace process.
The Turkish economy is also important. The Turkish Lira has dropped in value since the June elections and reached its lowest point against the dollar in October. The economy has slowed down; everyone is waiting for the new government.
Q.: How does the Turkish electoral system work?
Turkey is governed by a parliamentary system; it is the prime minister who holds the real powers. The role of the president is symbolic. The prime minister is the head of the party that wins the majority in the 550-member, four-year parliament.
The Turkish political system is a party-list, proportional representation system. Leaders have absolute authority over their parties. They pick the candidates and determine the nature of the parliament. The members of the parliament are selected from 85 electoral districts that elect different numbers of MPs depending on the size of their population. In south-eastern cities, the Kurdish HDP dominates the polls. But each party has to get over the national 10 per cent threshold to be elected. For this reason they need to win votes from across the country. If they fail, their seats will be lost to other parties. This would benefit the governing AK Party, as it is in second place in many Kurdish cities. In 2002 the AK Party won 34.28% of the vote but this gave them nearly 2/3 of the seats.
Q.: What and who are the main parties and candidates?
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is a socially-conservative political party. It has developed from the tradition of Islamism, but has officially abandoned this ideology in favour of “conservative democracy” The party is the largest in Turkey, with 258 members of parliament. Its leader, Ahmet Davutoğlu, is Prime Minister, while former party leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is President. Founded in 2001 by members of a number of existing conservative parties, the party has won more seats than any other party in four general election victories in 2002, 2007, 2011 and June 2015, winning 34.3%, 46.6%, 49.8% and 40.9% respectively. The AKP is accused by its opponents of going back to its islamist heritage and tradition of authoritarianism recent years
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) is a Kemalist and social-democratic political party. It is the oldest political party in Turkey and is currently the main opposition in the Grand National Assembly. The Republican People’s Party describes itself as “a modern social-democratic party, which is faithful to the founding principles and values of the Republic of Turkey”. The party is also cited as “the founding party of modern Turkey”. On May 22, 2010, the party convention of the Republican People’s Party elected “Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu”:
http://www.euronews.com/2015/10/06/turkish-opposition-leader-promises-radical-reforms-and-media-freedom-ahead-of/ to be the new party leader. Kılıçdaroğlu set about immediately to reform the party.
As its name suggests, the Nationalist Movement (MHP), is a nationalist party. In the June 2015 general elections, the party polled 16.3% and won 80 seats, becoming the joint-third largest political party. The MHP used to be described as a neo-fascist party linked to extremist and violent militias. Since the 1990s it has, under the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli, gradually tried to foster a more moderate image, turning from ethnic to cultural nationalism and conservatism and stressing the unitary nature of the Turkish state. Since 2007, the MHP has been continuously represented in the National Assembly with a voter share of well above the 10% threshold. It is strongly against the peace process with Kurds, and believes that Turkey’s problem is PKK terrorist activity and not Kurdish rights.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) It was founded in 2012 as the political wing of the Peoples’ Democratic Congress, a union of numerous left-wing movements that had previously fielded candidates as independents to bypass the 10% election threshold. The party operates a co-presidential system of leadership, with one chairman and one chairwoman. As of 22 June 2014, these chairpersons are “Selahattin Demirtaş”:
http://www.euronews.com/2015/10/09/turkey-must-set-its-own-policy-to-face-the-syrian-crisis-hdp-leader/ and Figen Yüksekdağ respectively. It is in alliance with the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), often described as the HDP’s fraternal party.
As a democratic socialist and anti-capitalist party, the HDP aspires to fundamentally challenge the existing Turkish-Kurdish divide and other existing parameters in Turkish politics. Despite the HDP’s claims that it represents the whole of Turkey, critics have accused the party of mainly representing the interests of the Kurdish minority in south-eastern Turkey, where the party polls the highest. From 2013 to 2015, the HDP participated in peace negotiations with the Turkish government on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist militant organisation, with which it is accused of having direct links. In the June 2015 general election, the party exceeded expectations by polling 13.12% of the vote and won 80 MPs.
Q.: What is the most realistic outcome based on the latest opinion polls?