Here’s me, trying to make some sense of the AKP’s stunning electoral turnaround:
Turkey has suffered through a violent summer and early fall. The government has blamed two major terrorist attacks, in Suruc in July and in Ankara in October, on the Islamic State. A series of smaller, more targeted attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have killed over 150 Turkish soldiers and police officers since July. The PKK contends that those attacks were carried out in self-defense, following a government crackdown in the aftermath of the Suruc bombing, but the violence nevertheless undeniably had an impact on Turkey’s electorate. In that context, voters (particularly from the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, which lost the most votes of all four of Turkey’s major parties between June and November) appear to have looked to an AKP majority as the country’s best hope for ending the violence and stabilizing the country.
Speaking to a Wilson Center audience on November 4, Turkey analyst Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said simply that, “Turks decided to pick the stability of a single-party government.”
Erdogan and the AKP changed their message to reflect these popular concerns. One of the biggest issues in June’s vote was Erdogan’s plan to change Turkey’s constitution to increase the power of his presidential office. Voters resoundingly rejected this plan, as June’s results show. In contrast, in the campaigning for Sunday’s snap elections Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the AKP’s parliamentary leader, focused their message on stability and security. Although opposition parties sought to blame all that recent instability and violence on the AKP, Erdogan and Davutoglu were able to convince voters that the loss of the AKP’s majority left Turkey in disarray and that only a restoration of that majority could restore order.
Later I take a stab at where Turkey might be headed in a few important areas, but so much depends on how Erdoğan and company respond to last week’s victory that it’s still hard to really get a sense of what’s to come. Please go check it out!
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