With Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, a new era has begun in Turkey.
The parliamentary democratic governance is now replaced officially with an autocratic presidential governance system. Worse, in the new system there is no checks and balances and the country might soon find itself heading fast to a full-fledged autocracy.
Contrary to expectations, incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made it in the first vote and with over 52 percent of the votes cast. He was elected as president to a second term in office. Was it indeed a second term, or was this his first under the new system? That will be a discussion of the years to come as if it was his second, he could not compete for a third term unless he calls for elections at least one year before his term expires. We have time for such a discussion.
Was their fraud? Were the results rigged? Most probably. But as the CHP presidential candidate conceded in his press conference called to declare his acceptance of defeat, the amount of rigging was not anywhere near to change the overall result. Thus, perhaps it is wiser to stop wasting time with such discussions and instead concentrate on how future contests would be waged. Municipal elections are around the corner and the CHP risks losing all its major seats, including the seat of mayor in Eskişehir, to the AKP.
It was a long and traumatic night for all polling companies of Turkey as well as those international ones hired by Turks to estimate the outcome of the June 24 twin vote. To cut it short, with no exception, they all failed though some were closer to the outcome, some were as alien as a star in outer space.
A polling company executive that I happened to spend some hours of the election night together with him and some other friends kept on repeating that the results reported on all TV channels were manipulated or at least handpicked from a pool. As it was only the semi-official Anatolia News Agency (AA) reporting the results from the Supreme Electoral Board and since the AA has long become a mouthpiece of the government, he was confident that as the night progressed the results would prove correct the estimates his polling company released. Alas, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce conceded defeat just a while after midnight, killing all the hopes of my friend.
He was not alone, of course. Many people shared his hope that by the end of the night figures would change and probably if not in the presidential vote at least in the parliamentary one the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would lose. That hope became true partially. For the second time in its history the AKP lost parliamentary majority. The first one was in June 2015 when Erdoğan did not like the outcome, did not allow creation of a coalition government and forced the country to go to a repeat election in November. In the meantime, hundreds of Turks had lost their lives to political chaos-fed terrorist actions. Now, the president cannot do that, as calling a new election would mean calling for presidential vote repeat, as well. On the other hand there is a remedy at hand. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which was in an election alliance with the AKP, has scored a major electoral victory and maintained its 2015 vote share though it just gave birth to the Good Party (IYI). Indeed, it could be said that besides Erdoğan the MHP was the only other winner of Sunday’s twin vote.
Yet, Sunday’s parliamentary vote showed that an era of cohabitation – if not a formal coalition – has started and in this new period the minority partner MHP will most likely be at the steering wheel.
On the left, on the other hand, İnce managed to get over 30 percent of the vote. That was a first for a social democrat leader since late Bülent Ecevit’s great electoral successes of the 1970s. Will he sit back and enjoy the moment or will he use the power the electorate gave to him to claim leadership of the CHP or perhaps mayoral seat of a major city, Ankara, İzmir or perhaps even İstanbul? That’s as well yet an immature discussion but very likely will aggregate soon.