Washington, D.C. — Turkey’s June 7 parliamentary election promises to be the closest and most consequential since the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, swept to power in 2002. Opposition parties stand to gain ground, and for the first time Turkey’s history, a Kurdish political party could enter parliament in force, seriously complicating the AKP’s path to a fourth consecutive parliamentary majority. If the opposition records large gains, the AKP could be forced into a coalition or minority government, and the Turkish political landscape—and foreign policy—will change dramatically. But Turkish electoral law means that if the mainly Kurdish Peace and Development Party, or HDP, falls short of the 10 percent threshold for representation in parliament, its seats will default to the AKP, paving the way for dramatic constitutional change and the consolidation of power in the hands of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Center for American Progress has released an issue brief explaining the complexities of the upcoming Turkish election—the major players, the potential alliances, and the stakes for Turkey and the region.
“The AKP is more vulnerable than it has been in a decade,” said Michael Werz, CAP Senior Fellow and co-author of the paper. “After almost 13 years in power, the party is battling exhaustion and struggling to convince voters that it has new ideas to bring the country forward, but it continues to command a loyal electoral base of about 40 percent.”
“With slowing economic growth and a series of foreign policy setbacks, the AKP is facing reinvigorated challenges from Kurds, liberals, and ultranationalist Turks—and these factors could come together on June 7 to recast Turkish politics,” added CAP Policy Analyst Max Hoffman.
Turkish voters will head to the polls knowing that the result will shape the country’s course on a range of crucial questions: the fate of stalled peace negotiations with Kurdish rebels in the southeast, President Erdoğan’s quest to take Turkey from a parliamentary to a strong presidential system, the position of religion in the public square, Ankara’s more assertive role in Syria and the region, fraying relations with the West, and increasing pressure on political dissent and freedom of expression.
An outright majority for the AKP would bring four more years of more conservative and religious politics, efforts to rewrite the constitution, a continuation of more aggressive Turkish foreign policy, and an uncertain path forward with Kurdish rebels in the country’s southeast. An outright AKP win would also likely mean further anti-Western rhetoric and more pressure on political dissent and freedom of expression at home. But if the AKP is forced into a coalition, the most likely outcome is a pairing with the ultranationalists; this could bring political instability, ambivalence toward the United States and Europe, deep hostility toward the Kurds, and possibly renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels.
Turkey is headed toward its most exciting and potentially decisive election in more than a decade. With three, sometimes four, major parties competitive in certain key districts and unreliable polling, it is almost impossible to call in advance. What is certain is that the result will be crucial for Turkey and important for the United States. Perhaps most importantly, the conduct of the vote could rejuvenate or doom Turkey’s reputation as a modern democracy. This brief introduces the key players in this electoral drama, outlines the constitutional and political stakes, and analyzes potential electoral outcomes and the likely fallout from each scenario.
Click here to read the paper.
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