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Turkey: Already preparing for the playoffs

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Jacques Couvas     Permalink
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A new day in Turkey
(image by Greenland Michael)
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ANKARA, 7 June (OEN). The results of the Turkish elections of 7 June have put an end to the suspense that has dominated national politics in the past three months. For the first time in this republic's history a Kurdish party has succeeded to be elected to the legislature, with an impressive 15 percent of the seats available.

The breakthrough of the People's Democracy (HD) Party has radically changed the political landscape of Turkey, as it has come at the expense of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which has been in power since 2002. AKP has regressed in the latest contest by nine percentage points, from 49.8 percent in the 2011 elections to 40.86 percent.

The other two main contenders, the Republican People's (CH) Party and Nationalist Movement (MH) Party have retained their electorate, with MHP making a gain of 27 seats over the previous general elections. CHP, the oldest party in the country, established by modern Turkey's founder, Murtafa Kemal Ataturk, has stagnated, in spite of an aggressive economic and welfare programme.

Of the 54.8 million qualified voters, 47.5 million cast their ballots (86.6 percent participation). AKP received 40.86 percent of the votes, CHP 24.9, MHP 16.29 and HDP 13.12 percent.

AKP remains the largest political formation, but the loss of parliamentary seats to the newcomer HDP steals its privilege of legislative majority.

The Turkish Grand General Assembly is composed of 550 deputies. Pending the final official results, due to be announced in 11 days, AKP will have 258 seats, CHP 132, and MHP and HDP 80 each.

HDP's performance is quite remarkable, considering that it won 6.1 million votes out of an estimated 9 million total Kurdish voters.

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Kurds are the largest ethnic minority of Turkey, with 15 million people out of a total of 77 million Turkish citizens. Their past, under the Turkish republic formed in 1923, has been turbulent, as they have not been recognised as a minority by the Constitution. Their attempts to obtain civic rights, including the use of their own language, were violently oppressed, intermittently, in the 1930s and from the 1970s onwards.

As a reaction, the more combative elements of their society formed in 1978 the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an activist organisation which, together with its paramilitary wing People's Defence Forces (HPG) went into an armed conflict with the country's security forces from 1984 through 2013, when a ceasefire was agreed on the basis of a negotiated peace process with the government.

The peace process has had ups and downs, but no agreement has been reached so far. The conflict has cost over the past 30 years 40,000 lives among security forces and PKK fighters. PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

But the ceasefire has disposed the Turkish civil population more favourably towards the Kurds than in past decades. This has given the opportunity for the creation in 2014 of a Kurdish political party, HDP, whose aim is to enter national politics through the main door--the Parliament.

Its main leader is a young lawyer, Salahattin Demirtas, 42. Within weeks after the creation of HDP he participated in the presidential elections of 10 August 2014. Although he only got 9.76 percent of the votes, he won the hearts and minds not only of Kurds, but also of many of the underprivileged of the country--women, unemployed, homosexuals, artists, journalists, Yazidis, Roma, Syriacs, Christians, and Jews--and of those who have been disappointed with either AKP or the opposition's CHP.

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HDP presented 268 women candidates in the elections, while AKP only listed 90.

So the clear winner of the present elections is Demirtas, whom The Guardian of London labelled today "Obama of Turkey", and who has been seen in the past weeks by many as "Tsipras of Anatolia", in reference to the equally young and unconventional winner of the January 2015 Greek elections. Demirtas has, actually, succeeded to justify both of these images, thanks to the results achieved on 7 June.

The verdict of the polls on Sunday indicates that the campaign of the ruling AKP has not convinced a large part of its own electorate, as 9 percentage points lost represent an 18 percent relative voter decline in comparison with 2011. The absolute number of losses nears 3 million votes. These have grossed the gains of both MHP and HDP.

The campaign, which mobilised huge masses of AKP followers, considerable funds and the support of public agencies and government resources, such as state television, was led simultaneously by the incumbent prime minister and party chairman Ahmet Davutoglu and by the President of the Turkish republic, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in person. Erdogan is considered the most charismatic and energetic leader Turkey has had since Ataturk.

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J N Couvas is an academic, journalist, and an international corporate and political adviser, specialising in Middle East and Balkan affairs. He teaches international strategy and executive leadership at universities in the region.

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