This month, Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its 13-year parliamentary majority. According to unofficial results from the June 7 elections, its vote tally dropped to 41 percent, down from 50 percent in 2007.
Elsewhere, the main opposition faction the leftist Republican People’s Party (CHP) saw its support drop from 26 percent to 25 percent, while the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) boosted its tally from 13 percent to more than 16 percent. And the smaller Kurdish nationalist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) more than doubled its support, winning 13 percent on a liberal platform that reached out to women as well as political and ethnic minorities.
Preliminary results indicate that the AKP will hold 258 seats in the 550-seat legislature, CHP 132, MHP 80, and HDP 80. Since no party holds a majority, the next government will be either a coalition or minority government. The AKP can form a coalition with just one partner, whereas the other parties need at least two partners to muster a majority.
In theory, many coalition permutations exist, but in reality the options are limited because the MHP and HDP have, at least for the moment, ruled out coalition with the AKP, and the MHP has ruled out coalition with the HDP. Left-right coalitions are unlikely in Turkey, suggesting that an AKP-CHP government may not be in the offing, though such an alliance could deliver much-needed stability and social harmony by bringing the country’s disparate halves together. A left-left CHP-HDP coalition is not possible because their total seat tally would not be enough to secure a vote of confidence. The political alignment points in the direction of a minority government, unless the two right-wing parties, the AKP and MHP, can form a government in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agrees to take a step back a — highly implausible scenario.
Alternatively, the country could face early elections. The Turkish constitution dictates that a government must be formed within 45 days after elections. If no government has received a vote of confidence in the legislature by this deadline, new elections have to be called.
Implications for Erdogan
His ambitions to become Turkey’s first executive-style president have been vetoed by the electorate. The MHP, CHP, and HDP have all ruled out the status quowhereby Erdogan effectively runs the country behind the scenes as a precondition for entering a coalition government with the AKP. His party may still form a government or come back as the majority party in likely early elections, but Erdogan’s presidential ambitions are now exhausted. Nevertheless, he will continue his efforts to run the AKP and pursue an executive-style presidency, albeit with different tactics especially if early elections usher in a more pro-Erdogan alignment.
Soner Cagaptay is the Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute.