A Bird in the Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush: Assessment of Turkey’s Parliamentary Election Results

Friday, November 13, 2015

Elyas Vahedi
Expert on Turkey and Caucasus Affairs

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party has finally won 49.4 percent of the total vote in the country’s parliamentary elections, which were held on November 1, getting 317 parliamentary seats, which was totally beyond the expectations of the country’s politicians and the results predicted by various opinion polls. In the same elections, the Republican People's Party (CHP) got 25.4 percent of the votes, which was less than one percent more than its previous result, thus increasing its parliamentary seats from 132 to 134. At the same time, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) shed more than 4 percent of its votes compared to the previous round of the elections, thus failing to win 12 percent of the votes and losing 39 parliamentary seats to only score 41 seats. The most important loser of the recent elections, however, was the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which only got 10.7 percent of the votes. Although the Peoples' Democratic Party managed to cross the 10-percent quorum for getting into the parliament, but it lost 2.5 percent of votes it had gained in the previous round of parliamentary elections, thus losing 21 seats in the country’s parliament and getting a total of 59 seats.

Factors affecting election results

1. Popular base of the Justice and Development Party

Despite some of its non-democratic behaviors and wrong decisions, one of the reasons behind popularity of this party is its nature, which introduces it as logical supporters of religious and national values of Turkish people, in addition to its emphasis on the market economy and the axial role of production in boosting national economy of the country. Instead of pinning their hopes on slogans shouted by various opposition parties, people paid attention to 13-year experiences of the ruling party. As put by some Turkish experts, people have trusted a Turkish proverb which says, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

2. Rational conduct of the ruling party as opposed to emotional and hostile behavior of opposition parties

After observing the results of the previous round of parliamentary elections on June 7, 2015, the ruling Justice and Development Party not only embarked on careful examination of why part of its votes were lost, but also took all legal measures to make up for it, even if in pretense. Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believed in the need to avoid coalition and setting eyes on the results of the next round of the elections, but the way that Ahmet Davutoglu, the country’s prime minister and leader of the Justice and Development Party, treated opposition parties depicted a logical picture of him in the country’s public opinion during several months that stood between the two polls. However, the opposition parties took hostile and emotional measures toward the government and the ruling party, thus demonstrating themselves as being far from the logic of the world of politics.

3. Securitization of the country’s situation and taking advantage of it

Regardless of whether the government had a hand in security problems that took place in the interval between the two elections, the method used by the Justice and Development Party to ride the tide created by these incidents and take full advantage of them proved successful and some voters looked upon the Justice and Development Party as the sole savior which could rescue the Turkish society from such insecurity.

4. Successful arrangement of candidates

In this stage of the elections, the ruling party introduced famous candidates, especially out of the former government ministers, in order to boost chances of its candidates winning seats at the parliament.

5. Changing election slogans

In this stage of the elections, the prime minister changed his tone on various political groups and focused more on economic and social promises, which were quite attractive for Turkish people under tumultuous conditions of the country’s economy.

Evaluation of future domestic and foreign policies of Turkey

One of the most important of future plans considered by the Justice and Development Party is to change the country’s constitution. To do this, the ruling party expects some opposition lawmakers to back its plan. The Peoples' Democratic Party is one of those groups that would be benefited from such a change in the constitution, but it is not willing for this change to be done in the name of the Justice and Development Party because this will boost the popularity of the ruling party in the Kurdish regions of the country. Other parties, as well, have their own specific considerations, which makes it difficult for the ruling party to change the constitution on its own.

It must be noted that to change the constitution, the ruling party needs to have the support of two-thirds of parliament deputies, that is, it needs the positive votes of 367 lawmakers. To win that vote, it needs to get the support of 50 lawmakers that do not belong to the party. Changing Turkey’s political system from a parliamentary to a presidential one is one of the most important and at the same time the most challenging plans followed by the ruling party. These changes will boost the powers of the president and will give him the lion’s share of the political power in the country. It seems that some lawmakers belonging to other parties are willing to strike a deal with the ruling party in this regard. Another option that is available to the government and the ruling party in this regard is to hold a plebiscite, which if done, the ruling party has a lot of hope to gain the support of the majority of the Turkish people.

Economic plans will be also of high importance under the future government in Turkey. The Justice and Development Party is planning to boost the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) from about USD 800 billion at present to USD 2.2 trillion over a period of eight to nine years; that is, up to 2023.

Foreign policy of Turkey’s new government

The most important factor that attracted people’s votes was the behavior of the ruling party in both domestic and foreign policy areas. Otherwise, Turkish people would not have voted for this party again at a time that domestic insecurity was at its peak as a result of Turkey’s intervention in Syria and Iraq. The repeated victory of the ruling party will prompt it to follow its former foreign policy with more vigor and more self-confidence. However, this vigor will never make the government ignore some miscalculations in evaluation of regional conditions. In the case of Syria, the Justice and Development Party has got Turkey involved in this troublesome adventure and is now willing to somehow get out of it. So, when it comes to Syria, the new government of Turkey is expected to adopt an approach to resolution of the ongoing crisis in the Arab country. In view of the economy-based foreign policy that Turkey is pursuing, creating economic interdependence between Turkey, on the one hand, and Iran and Russia, on the other, will boost chances that Turkey would get along with the aforesaid countries’ policy in Syria.

Key Words: Turkey, Parliamentary Elections, Results, Justice and Development Party, Republican People's Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Popular Base, Rational Conduct, Emotional Behavior, Securitization, Successful Arrangement, Election Slogans, Domestic and Foreign Policies, Vahedi

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*Photo Credit: Reuters/Murad Sezer

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