CEFTUS and RUSI Roundtable ‘June 2015 General Elections and Turbulence in Politics of Turkey’

1 September 2015, RUSI

The Centre for Turkey Studies and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) hosted a round table at RUSI’s Whitehall headquarters in which Professor of Law and Politics Istar Gozaydin gave her analysis on Turkey’s June 2015 elections. The event was chaired by Michael Stephens, director of RUSI Qatar and research fellow.

Professor Gozaydin stated that the June 2015 elections in Turkey were neither free nor fair, and accused the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of having used tactics such as intimidation, and of having been especially harsh on figures from within the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), alongside unfairly using state resources for the AKP campaign.

She argued that AKP had lost part of its voter base and therefore its overall majority in parliament, and could not win the two-thirds majority which would be required for constitutional changes.

Professor Gozaydin continued noting that this election was the first time since 2002, that the AKP though finishing first with the most votes, could not sustain its parliamentary majority. She blamed AKP policies for the country’s economic difficulties, and stated that Turkish President and leading figure within the AKP Erdogan’s attempts at self-aggrandisement meant that the Kurdish and Armenian issues struggled to be resolved.

She also discussed changes within opposition parties and their appeal to the electorate, stating for example that in June 2015, the HDP was able to convince Kurdish and liberal Turkish voters to support it, helping it meet the 10% threshold, and ultimately gain a share of parliamentary seats. Had they not received this high number of votes, these seats would have gone to the AKP.

She also stated that the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was also capable of attracting new voters other than its traditional Kemalist and Turkish nationalist support base and therefore appeared a credible alternative to the AKP,  but argued that the AKP remains likely to be in government in the future in one way or another. She went on however to hail the participation of the voters and their decisions at the ballots as a triumph for democracy in spite of the aforementioned obstacles.

Professor Gozaydin argued that Erdogan’s personal manoeuvres and attitudes alongside those of others such as MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) leader Devlet Bahceli meant that different parties were unwilling to work together and favoured new elections rather than a coalition government. Moreover, she stated that the CHP like the MHP was also against AKP’s desire to change the constitution adding inter-party tensions.

She quoted a statement attributed to Erdogan in Rize, in which he claimed that there is now a de facto President rather than a symbolic one in Turkey, and that this new reality necessitated constitutional change to accommodate it. Professor Gozaydin also quoted Kemal Kilicdaroglu, claiming that he had stated that through his actions, Erdogan was staging a coup and trying to legalise it, despite having sworn to uphold the values of the constitution as president.

She stated that Erdogan’s claim to have a mandate for this because of his status as the first elected president of Turkey was not valid, because various European countries elect their presidents who still have static and symbolic positions.

She noted further that political violence has re-emerged in this context.

She also stated that around 66% of voters asked see Erdogan as increasingly authoritarian and oppressive and that 70% would have been satisfied with a coalition government. She closed predicting that AKP will not get a great deal more votes in the next election this coming November.

Summarised by Edward Rowe.