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Turkey Elections Explained

Turkey Elections Explained

Basil Keilani is currently living in Istanbul, Turkey working as an assistant professor at Istanbul Medeniyet University. Recently, the conservative and Islamic leaning AKP party and their president Erdogan won a majority election after violence and protests led up to the election. Many in the country do not believe the AKP respects human and journalist rights, but they still won the election with a majority vote. Basil explains why he believes the AKP captured the win and what this means for Turkey.

Nov. 3, 2015 – Turkey had an election yesterday. In the 1990’s, the Turkish secular leaning parties wrecked the economy. A secular economist named Dervis put the economy and country on a path of reform, but the AKP that came after him took the credit. From 2003-2007, the Turkish economy along with many of the BRIC economies (also Brazil) grew a lot. Part of it was also connected to FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). Turks voted for the AKP despite questions regarding human rights, the rights of journalism, foreign policy failures in Syria etc… Why? They remember how the economy grew from 2003 to 2007 and how the government before made serious economic errors. And, on top of that, the other three parties failed to form a coalition. A particular party took an intransigent position when it could have formed a coalition with the AKP. It refused, so many of the party’s voters deserted the party and voted for the AKP. A lot of the voters voted for the party due to economic myths (just like many American workers thought Reagan did a lot for them), and the AKP appeals to religion, and that sways many in their base just as Republicans were swayed to vote for George Bush.


However, things are complicated. What emerged this year is a Kurdish party breaking through the 10% political threshold twice.
That’s significant. It’s revolutionary, in a sense. In the future, that party will break through that barrier again-and-again as the Kurds believe have no other party they can really turn to satisfactorily. The MHP has to change, reform. The CHP has made advances; it did not go backwards unlike the other parties.

The AKP government essentially does what it wants domestically, because the European Union is in a middle of some economic problems, needs Turkey’s help when it comes the Syrian migrants, and the US is dealing with problems in Iraq and Syria, so they’re gong to essentially accept whatever the leader wants to do, domestically. The EU is not seeking to heavily criticize Turkey, because Turkey’s stability is much more important than whatever its leader chooses to do or not do to his people.


Erdogan is a very capable, clever, and determined leader. That appeals to the Turkish masses, and there’s a large working class that’s hoping for some improvement in their lot. Big promises are made.

However, I would add his politics are somewhat divisive. It divides Turks into so many camps – Sunni religious Turks, secular Turks of Sunni background, Alevis, religious Kurds sometimes against secular Kurds, though many recently joined the Kurdish dominated party. The Kurds and the East are not and have not seen adequate development, so they’re going to continue having more children. This will translate into more votes for the HDP. It would challenge the supremacy of the conservative Sunni Turkish elements. They will want a place within the Turkish political framework and will have the demographics for that if things keep up like that. That’s why I think the break down in the peace process was a mistake and not good for Turkey.

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