Voters in Turkey’s national parliamentary elections on Sunday voted to broaden the base and minimize the power that had coalesced under AKP President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong backer of the Muslim Brotherhood who has welcomed Hamas to set up foreign headquarters in the country.
“Long live democracy!” CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told his supporters at about 10 pm local time as early returns made it clear that Turkey’s election outcome was different this time around, after 12 years of rule by the AKP’s Justice and Development Party.
More than 53.7 million eligible voters were expected to vote Sunday (June 7) in a pivotal parliamentary election. Of those, nearly 46 million went to the polls between 8 am and 5 pm local time; voter turnout was high – about 85 percent – “sign of a strong democracy,” according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who voted in Istanbul.
At least 50,000 people signed up to serve as election monitors, showing their concern over the possibility the vote might be rigged. It was a realistic concern: during local elections last March, there were suspicious power outages in 22 provinces across the country while votes were being counted, and discrepancies surfaced between numbers recorded at polling stations and those entered into the Higher Election Board computers.
The results may ultimately determine whether Turkey eliminates the prime minister’s position in favor of the presidential system desired by Erdogan, who has long advocated for the change.
At the end, the people made it clear: they had had enough of Erdogan’s dictatorial manner.
In the previous 2011 election, the AKP won nearly 50 percent of the 550 seats in the parliament. But this time, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) garnerned just 40.6 percent of the vote – not enough to win the 276 seats necessary to form the next government alone.
The leftist-socialist CHP (Republican People’s Party) which led the country prior to the landslide victory by the AKP 12 years ago, won approximately 25.3 percent.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) received 16 percent, higher than MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli Bahçeli had hoped for. “May the election be the best yet for our 20 parties, their valued candidates and 165 independent candidates,” he said prior to the vote.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) meanwhile won 12.7 percent of the nationwide vote. This is the first time the Kurdish sector has crossed the parliament’s 10 percent barrier and winning a place in the legislative body. The HDP victory did not come without a cost – a bombing on Friday before the elections left two people dead in southeast Turkey and 200 others wounded. It was not clear whether in fact the polls would be safe in Kurdish areas. The Kurdish PKK terrorist organization also has a deep interest in the outcome of the election inasmuch as its group, which advocates for separating the region from the rest of Turkey, has been targeted by the government for years.