On Sunday night, Turkey's electoral commission announced the results of a stunning election which many are hailing as the beginning of the end for the country's long-dominant conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party).
The results left the AKP with around 41% of the vote and unable to form a single-party government. The pro-Kurdish HDP, with around 13% of the vote, comfortably crossed the 10% threshold required for parliamentary representation for the first time, while the CHP Republican People's Party (25%) and the MHP nationalists (16.3%) also entered the parliament.
The story of the election was HDP's entry into the parliament. This success shattered the AKP majority in the legislature which for many voters was associated with anti-secularism, corruption, a lack of progress on gender and social inequality, and a deteriorating media and internet freedom environment. While some are concerned the small party will shelve its broad-based electoral platform and return to the parochial politics of the ‘Kurdish question’, it nonetheless managed to capture voters tired of AKP and has a perfect opportunity to show it is serious about becoming a national party capable of fighting for change in the country.
Global Voices asked some of its most regular authors and translators what they thought the significance of the June 7 general election was, and where Turkey might go from here.
The most significant consequence is the end of the one party government-regime led by AKP.
In the worst case scenario, no coalition government will be founded and there will be early elections and AKP will win a majority of seats again in the early days of this Fall. However, AKP seems to be in decline and even the nationalist Turkish party, MHP may not help AKP to regain power. Even early elections may not save AKP.
Erdoğan's dream of a more powerful presidency is either crushed or postponed. The former more likely.
If HDP continues its existing policies, the Kurdish movement may essentially be integrated into Turkey's politics and will become a strong, popular secular party of the left.
The Gezi spirit continues to haunt Erdoğan. Most young Gezi activists I observed initially kept their distance from the Kurdish movement because it kept its distance from the Gezi Resistance. But Gezi supporters decided to punish Erdoğan with tactical voting.
Moreover, HDP began to embrace and incorporate social opposition from many circles including Gezi activists. If HDP continues like this, these tactical decisions on the part of voters will probably become long-term commitments…
As an outsider, this certainly felt like the most important election in Turkey's history. I was surprised to see how lively these elections were, both in terms of voting turnout, and discussion.
I had more hopes than my Turkish friends in this election. I think there are a few reasons for that. One is that to me it looked like HDP was going to make it given how active the party was. And just based on the discussions I had been hearing around, it looked like there was a lot of confidence votes that would go to HDP.
Another reason for my optimism was the overall election atmosphere in the country. Being from an authoritarian regime [neighbouring Azerbaijan] where we have yet to have free and fair elections let alone party campaigns, I felt a sense that things could really change in Turkey.
I can say that this was one of the most complex elections in Turkey, and maybe for the first time many people voted rationally by thinking about the parliamentary system, literally counting seat numbers and putting aside their own ideologies and social opinions. I don't think this has ever happened before.
HDP carried out a very successful election campaign; they showed us that they know, are aware of and want to change what has been restraining us for the last 10 or more years. There's still a sense of hope for change, just like during the Gezi Protests. And yes we gave our votes to punish Erdoğan, we gave our votes with our own ideas, reflections, and dreams of the future.
From this point on I'll be skeptical. The people we voted for have also had their own dreams of a future, for a very long time. We forget everything we've been through surprisingly easily. We forget but there's a wicked history [referring to Kurdish separatism and violence] at the starting point of what eventually took its name as HDP. AKP knows politics very well, they managed to thoroughly change the view of people of Turkey on almost everything. Now we have voted for [HDP] without regard for its past. This is not a bad thing, it was the only reasonable way. What is sad is that HDP will not necessarily forget its history and its initial purposes. And they will act upon those ideas, rather than making mutual contributions. We tend to believe in change, and so we tend to get stabbed in the back. If only I could be more optimistic about this outcome.
I'm more hopeful and generally more optimistic about HDP. It wants to continue like this — the party has known that just talking about Kurds won't help the solve ‘Kurdish issue’ for a while (since 2006-07 at least). With these election results, they showed this to both radical Kurds and Turks as well, especially the people at Gezi. They knew that most of our problems arise from economic and social injustices and now everyone has started to listen them.
For me, this was the second breaking point for Turkey, after Gezi. And this will charge all activists and opposition groups to work harder here. There will be some hard times ahead — for two years maybe — but after that, we can achieve a lot here.
A couple of notes about AKP's situation. As we saw so far, they want to play aggressive after this result.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan said: “HDP can only make movies of the peace process [in Kurdish eastern Turkey] from now on,” suggesting HDP's victory had undermined the real force for peace in the country: AKP.
Burhan Kuzu, another AKP politician wrote on Twitter “People chose chaos, instead of stability.”
Lots of pro-AKP journalists use the same arguments, claiming the results will cause an economic crisis. People worry that AKP may try to seek revenge for these results.
On a personal note, I'm so happy that HDP has the same number of MPs (or maybe +1 after some objections) as the nationalist MHP. Just seeing that gives me joy.
When I look at the overall picture — assuming there will not be an early election — I find the outcome very promising for many reasons. The first and main reason is that within this incoming parliament, the quality of representation has significantly increased. Many people, including non-Muslims, Kurds, and women have entered the parliament, which signals the chance for a more respectful, hardworking and equal politics. When it comes to the representation of women, the number has increased from 14.3% to 18%. It is still not enough, but it is a very important step. Especially the presence in the parliament of women who are known for their work on equality such as Filiz Kerestecioğlu (HDP), Meral Danış Beştaş (HDP) Hüda Kaya (HDP) and Leyla Şahin Usta (AKP) increases my hope about the future of women's rights movements and equality in this country. Hopefully, after 13 years, some things might start to get better for women.
The change of power distribution might also affect relationships beyond the parliament. One of the areas that might breathe the most would be the media. Although half of it is still in the hands of Justice and Development Party supporters, at least, with the result of these elections, the rest of the media might find space to express their point of view more easily and confidently. This situation, might help bring back some press freedom and transparency, which is essential for democracy.
Therefore, overall, the outcome is a hopeful one. Now, the rest is up to the political parties.