ANKARA // Turkey’s AK Party swept back into office in parliamentary elections, strengthening President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 13-year grip on power after a divisive campaign scarred by violence.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) received slightly more than 10 per cent of the vote to remain in parliament and again deny Mr Erdogan the super majority he had sought to allow him to increase his presidential powers.
Early news of the AKP’s success, which contradicted opinion poll predictions of another hung parliament like the June election result, triggered protests and clashes outside the HDP offices in the main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in the south-east.
The AKP won just shy of 50 per cent of the vote, giving it 315 seats in the 550-member parliament, while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) saw its vote share fall to about 11 per cent from 16 per cent in June. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) received about 23 per cent of the vote.
Turnout was about 87 per cent among the 54 million people eligible to vote.
The result is a triumph for a leader whose dominance in the Middle East’s biggest economy has polarised Turks and antagonised many allies. Since the inconclusive June vote, Turkey has resumed its war with Kurdish separatists and suffered a wave of attacks by ISIL. The violence alarmed investors, yet it appears to have persuaded voters to seek stability in a return to single-party government.
“Erdogan’s emphasis on security and instability is paying off. And it goes to show how unreliable the pre-election polls are,” said Anthony Skinner, a director with UK-based forecasting company Verisk Maplecroft. “So more polarisation, confrontation and no end in sight to intervention by the president.”
The key question on Sunday was whether the ruling party would get enough seats for an outright majority in parliament or whether it would have to form a coalition in order to govern. Most analysts had expected AKP to fall short again, but it won a bigger share of the vote than any of the main local voter surveys had foreseen. It increased its votes by 4 million to more than 23 million, according to the Anadolu news agency, and came close to replicating the landslide it won in 2011.
While Mr Erdogan was not up for re-election, he is now better placed to rule the country as president, an office whose powers he has sought to increase. Opposition parties campaigned against that plan, and also accuse Mr Erdogan and his successor as premier and AKP leader, Ahmet Davutoglu, of ratcheting up tensions with Kurdish militants in a bid to regain the lost majority.
Following the June vote, renewed fighting between Turkey’s security forces and Kurdish rebels has left hundreds of people dead and shattered an already-fragile peace process. Two recent massive suicide bombings at pro-Kurdish gatherings that killed about 130 people, apparently carried out by an ISIL cell, also increased tensions.
Turkey is a key US ally in the fight against ISIL and, since it hosts more Syrian refugees than any other nation in the world, a crucial player in efforts to end the war in Syria and resolve Europe’s massive immigration crisis.
Mr Davutoglu had called on voters to choose stability and give AKP a new majority, while opposition parties had hoped to force him into forming a coalition.
* Bloomberg and Associated Press