Turkey election update: June 24 2018

I’m tracking Turkish election results as they come in. Please check back for updates, which I’ll add at the top of the post.

UPDATE 7: With Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reporting almost 96 percent of the vote in, Erdoğan sits at just under 53 percent. He’s already declared victory, though the opposition is casting doubt on Anadolu’s vote count and already starting to talk about electoral fraud. The AKP-MHP alliance looks set to win a majority, behind a surprise performance by MHP. Turnout was reportedly quite high, in the 87-88 percent range. This will probably be my last update tonight barring something unforeseen. If I feel there’s anything more to say in the immediate aftermath of the vote I’ll be back tomorrow for that. Otherwise I will be taking some time off and will return on July 5.

UPDATE 6: Erdoğan’s vote share has dropped to 54 percent with 80 percent of the vote in, but at this point it would take a minor miracle for him to fall below 50 percent. HDP appears that it will make it into parliament, but that will not be enough to deny the AKP-MHP alliance a majority. MHP has apparently dramatically overperformed its pre-election polling, while AKP has perhaps slightly overperformed and CHP has underperformed.

UPDATE 5: Hard to know what to make of this without any numbers behind it, but take it for whatever it’s worth:

The parliamentary vote is to some degree a distraction. If AKP fails to win a majority even in combination with its MHP ally, Erdoğan will be empowered to hold new elections relatively soon and can keep doing that until he gets a result he likes.

UPDATE 4: Reuters finally reported separate figures for AKP and MHP and their combined vote is around 57 percent with 61 percent of the vote counted, which would give Erdoğan loyalists a comfortable parliamentary majority. Erdoğan’s total in the presidential race has shrunk to 55 percent with around 70 percent of those ballots cast, but if he’s going to drop below 50 percent (forcing a runoff) there aren’t many more votes left to get him there.

UPDATE 3: Reuters has Erdoğan at 57 percent with “about half” of the ballots counted, and AKP at 47 percent. Of far more importance on the parliamentary front, Reuters has HDP at around 9 percent, short of the 10 percent it needs to be seated in parliament.

UPDATE 2: Maybe there won’t be a runoff after all.

It kind of depends where that 56.6 percent has come from. If big cities still have most of their votes out, then Erdoğan’s percentage will slip further.

UPDATE 1: With about a fifth of the vote counted, Erdoğan is at 59 percent of the vote and his parliamentary coalition is sitting at 55 percent. Good news for them so far, but it’s early in the counting and the big cities–where Erdoğan is generally unpopular–probably haven’t come in yet.

ORIGINAL POST: As I’m writing this, and it’s still before noon in the Eastern US, there’s not much news to report except to say that the polls have closed so all that’s left is to count the votes. A few news sites are doing live updates if you’re into that sort of thing, or you can check Twitter and comb through all the “reports” of MASSIVE AKP VOTER FRAUD or WESTERN-BACKED OPPOSITION MANIPULATIONS or whatever to get to actual results. Or you can just wait for a little while until some official results start coming in. Handicapping Turkish elections is though, especially since polling is usually all over the map, but I remain convinced that the parliamentary election hinges on how the predominantly Kurdish HDP performs. If it gets over the 10 percent hump, there will probably be a hung parliament. If it doesn’t, the ruling AKP-MHP alliance will easily win another majority.

Compared with the parliamentary vote, the presidential election is more important. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s unbalanced constitutional changes, the ones that Turkish voters narrowly approved in last year’s referendum, ensured that. If Erdoğan wins, either in today’s first round on in a runoff, then those constitutional changes will be set in stone and Turkey will continue on as it has been. And he should be considered the favorite right up until he loses–say what you want about the way he governs Turkey, but Erdoğan is a gifted politician, has a real talent for manipulating events as president in ways that work to his political benefit, and is running on a message that still, over 15 years on, appeals to a very large percentage of Turkish voters. If he does somehow lose, then…well, it’s not clear how that will go.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce looks like he’ll be the one facing Erdoğan in a runoff if it gets to that point, so he’d ben the one to upset the incumbent. İnce is a bit of an unknown quantity partly because he’s never led the CHP (he’s tried and failed to win that job twice) and really had a chance to be a major national political figure. He’s tried to position himself as the anti-Erdoğan while also emphasizing his religious convictions in an effort to get voters to see the staunchly secularist CHP in a different light. He’s promised to undo the excesses of Sultan Recep’s presidency–refusing to live in the presidential palace, for example–to end Erdoğan’s two year long state of emergency, to end Turkey’s military intervention in Syria and restore relations with Damascus, to strengthen judicial independence, and to find a peaceful solution to Turkey’s fight against the PKK.

He’s also representing a party that’s helped bring Turkey decades of government dysfunction, repeated military coups, and that hasn’t exactly worked to end official corruption or to peacefully resolve the Kurdish crisis despite many bites at the apple. It’s not a coincidence that some of the things İnce is saying are things that a younger Erdoğan might have said, circa 2001 or so when he was just introducing his Justice and Development Party to Turkish politics. Erdoğan promised reform, he promised stronger democratic institutions, he promised an end to the war against the Kurds. And yet here we are.

Turkish voters can choose a president who has weakened democratic institutions while strengthening his own power, escalated the war against the Kurds, thoroughly suppressed dissent and a free press, jailed political opponents, and invaded Syria. Or they can choose a challenger who might be different but represents interests that were doing at least some of these things for much of the 20th century. Erdoğan still gets a lot of credit for overcoming Turkey’s historically broken political system and for what his supporters see as his willingness to stand up to foreign/Western interests trying to control Turkey. Some of the latter is paranoia, fueled by Erdoğan’s copious use of conspiratorial rhetoric, but some of it is not. The European Union’s past complaints about military coups aside, the West definitely preferred a Turkey whose army intervened in civilian politics every decade or so to keep things from getting too Muslim-y (or too lefty, but that’s not Erdoğan’s thing) to what Turkey is now.

People will be watching for ballot stuffing, counting irregularities, etc. There may be some of that, I guess we’ll see. But Erdoğan does most of his election rigging well before the fact, by arresting political opponents, eradicating independent press, and skewing state media coverage in his favor:

That’s the amount of coverage each presidential candidate and party has received over this campaign on state TRT channels. I know it’s in Turkish but I think it’s pretty self explanatory. In this case, Erdoğan rigged this election two years ago when he used an amateurish and badly botched coup attempt as an excuse to impose what has become an indefinite state of emergency over Turkey, greatly enhancing his already vast powers. The essence of the illiberal democracy is free but unfair elections, and Erdoğan is a pioneer in that regard.

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