As expected, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan won another five-year term, with nearly half of the votes Sunday.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for Southeast European Times -- 13/06/11
AKP supporters celebrate their party’s third victory on Sunday (June 12th). [Reuters]
By the time the polls closed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) had won 49.9% of the vote or 326 of the 550 seats in parliament. Although the AKP increased its vote percentage by nearly 4% over the 2007 election, due to parliamentary arithmetic the AKP lost 15 seats, leaving it short of the 330-seat "super majority" which would have enabled the party to vote on constitutional changes and send it to a referendum for a final decision.
Improving its position, the Republican People's Party (CHP) finished second with 26% of the vote and 135 seats, or 23 more than last time. The Nationalist Action Party (MHP) took 13%, which translated into 54 seats, down 17, seemingly unaffected by sex tape scandals that caused the resignation of ten senior party members.
Another big winner was the country's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which captured an additional ten seats in parliament. The BDP can expect 35 deputies in the new parliament, according to projections.
In the final analysis, the AKP showed its continued popularity, but in some ways the real winners are the CHP and BDP, who both managed to substantially increase their numbers in parliament.
Of the 50 million eligible voters, roughly two-thirds of the population, 84.5% cast ballots.
Speaking at a victory rally in Ankara, Erdogan pledged "humility" and co-operation with rivals. "We are thrilled after winning one out of every two voters' votes in the county," he said. "To the Turkish nation, whether you voted for AKP or not, the real winner of the 2011 elections is Turkey."
On the planned new constitution, he said: "We will go to the opposition. We will consult with the media and academics to find a consensus. We will not close our doors regarding the constitution just because we haven't reached 330 seats."
Ahmet Edip Ugur, Erdogan’s deputy, believes “Turkish citizens want us to drive the country towards democracy, a modern constitution, in spite of all the handicaps.” On the important issue of the constitution, Ugur reminded that opposition parties also promised a modern constitution during the election,“ so they have to follow their words now.”
“The message [of voters] reached the addressee, and we will fight for the people’s will,” he told SETimes.
However, opponents express scepticism about Erdogan and the AKP’s willingness to compromise.
“AKP has to prove its sincerity,” Faruk Logoglu, adviser to the CHP chairman, told SETimes, adding the CHP respects the democratic outcome of the election.
"We wish all the success to AKP, but they must remember there's a stronger main opposition party now," Logoglu said, adding “We’ll do everything we can so that Turkey doesn’t veer off the path of democracy.”
Logoglu says the opposition’s main priority in the parliament will be preserving human rights, freedoms and democracy. As for the new constitution, he says that although it is in the interest of all parties to change it, the question of how is the greatest question.
Oktay Vural, deputy chairman of the MHP, says that until they see the AKP’s draft on the new constitution, it’s hard to say whether they can sit at the same table together.
“This [a new constitution] is the most sensitive issue for our party now,” he told SETimes, adding, “AKP didn’t explain its real priorities and purposes on this issue, neither before the election, nor during the campaign.”
One of the elections most significant results -- with implications for the drafting of a new constitution and resolving the Kurdish issue -- is the success of the BDP in Kurdish populated areas.
The AKP and BDP are the main political rivals in these regions and the BDP’s success sends a clear message to the government, according to BDP MP Hasip Kaplan.
“The main message of the election that none of the parties wants to admit, is that AKP is no more representative for the Kurds,” he said, arguing “the party [AKP] melted down as a sugar.”
“We are not terrorists and we’ll fight in the parliament until we prove that,” he told SETimes, adding that by increasing the number of BDP seats in parliament, voters sent the message that the BDP is their democratic choice.
As for the new constitution, he said “it will not be changed against the Kurdish peoples will.”