Parliamentary election in Turkey 2015: AKP is still the favourite

The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. IFIMES has prepared an analysis in view of the upcoming parliamentary election in the Republic of Turkey that is scheduled for 7 June 2015. The most relevant and interesting sections from the comprehensive analysis entitled “Parliamentary election in Turkey 2015: AKP is still the favourite” are published below. 

Parliamentary election in Turkey 2015:


AKP is still the favourite


On Sunday, 7 June 2015, for the third time in less than fifteen months, Turkish citizens will head for the polls to elect the 550 deputies to the Grand National Assembly. Local elections were held in March 2014 and presidential elections in August 2014.


31 political parties will be competing for 56,641,000 votes of eligible voters, of which 53,765,000 in Turkey and 2,876,000 abroad.The electoral threshold is set at 10%.


AKP is the leading party in Turkey


There are four major parties among 31 political parties that will compete at the upcoming parliamentary election:


  1. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), established in 2001 and run by the incumbent Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, is the leading political party in Turkey. It advocates civil and religious freedoms. Its conservative programme lays stress on pro-Western market principles and EU membership. In the inner political field it promotes peaceful solution of the Kurdish issue and aims to return the army, police forces and the judiciary under the constitutional framework. AKP deals very fiercely with any parallel structure in the state apparatus.


During its twelve-year reign the party saved Turkey from hyperinflation and economic crisis. Today, Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world.


AKP is anticipated to win 40%-45% of votes. If the HDP party fails to reach the 10% electoral threshold its votes will automatically go to AKP as the largest party. Potential Kurdish voters in south-eastern Turkey are traditionally not in favour of CHP and MHP.


  1. Republican People's Party (CHP), established in 1919, is the oldest political party of the modern Turkey. It is a secular political party modelled on European social democratic parties. Its president is Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu who belongs to the Shia sect of Alevis.


CHP played an important historical role, its founder being the father of Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In the critical period after World War II the party transformed Turkey into a modern and developed western country. In 1980s and 1990s CHP lost its direction and together with its coalition partners it pushed the country into a deep economic crisis. Hyperinflation led to reduction in the value of the Turkish lira. Trust into Turkish economy and rule of law was regained with the end of CHP's rule and the arrival of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP. According to estimations CHP will receive 30% of votes.


  1. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is the third largest party in Turkey, established in 1969. Being the promoter of Turkish nationalism it had its own militias that were responsible for assassinating numerous left-wing academics and activists during the 1970s. MHP's President is Devlet Bahçeli.


On 12 September 1980 the military used MHP's clash with the Marxsist DHKP/C party (The Revolutionary People's Liberation Party–Front) to carry out a coup d'état. MHP is expected to receive about 15% of votes at the election. One of MHP's most prominent candidates for member of parliament is an influential intellectual Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, former Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), who won second place as the opposition presidential candidate last year.


  1. The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) was established in 2012. It has two leaders: the increasingly popular Selahattin Demirtaş and a well-known leftist activist Figen Yüksekdağ.


It is a left-wing and pro-Kurdish party, representing the interests of disadvantaged people such as women, minorities, homosexuals etc. HDP opposes capitalism and religious intolerance.


It took a populist approach when drawing up its ticket with a 50% quota for women and a 10% quota for the LGBT community. The candidate list includes various minorities: Alevis, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, the Roma and other. During the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul they were the voice of the Greens.


This is the first time HDB will compete at election as a political party. At previous elections its candidates were independently elected for parliament seats (29). This time HDP may expect to receive 10%-12% of votes mostly from leftists and some Kurdish voters in south-eastern Turkey.


The forthcoming parliamentary election is of great importance for Turkey. The incumbent Prime Minister and AKP president Ahmet Davutoğlu will represent the party at election for the first time after 12 years of charismatic Erdoğan's leadership.


For AKP's founder and incumbent President of the Republic of Turkey Erdoğan this election will mark an important milestone in view of the reform of the presidential system which he aims to transform from a parliamentary into a (semi)presidential system, whereby he will lead the country on the basis of the party's programme (Turkey's 2023 goal: to become one of the world's top 10 economies).


For CHP the election will mark a change in direction. In case of a modest election result it will probably change its leader and shift it political orientation towards left-centre.


The new parliament and the new government facing numerous challenges


After parliamentary election the new parliament and the new government will have to deal with numerous challenges:


● AKP aims to transform the parliamentary system into a presidential one. CHP, HDP in MHP oppose this idea.

● AKP wants to retain the electoral threshold at the present 10%, while CHP wants to reduce it to 5%, MHP is in favour of a change but does not state any figures, and HDP supports a 0% threshold.

● Regarding the Alevi minority AKP is convinced that the atmosphere has been created for discussion on the interpretation of Islam. CHP demands official recognition and equal treatment of the Alevi and the legalisation of their religious places of gathering calledCem Evi/Cemevi. MHP advocates the recognition of Alevi Islam. HDP demands that all Alevi mosques be granted permission and constitutional status.

● In the field of women's rights AKP promotes the increase in the fertility rate and births through awards for mothers and benefits for working (employed) mothers. It also advocates strict prohibition of any form of violence against women. CHP and MHP advocate support for the poorest families and want more women employed in the judiciary. HDP goes even further: it demands the establishment of the ministry for women's affairs and proposes that each housewife should be entitled to social relief and enjoy the same rights as employed workers based on her work at home.

● In the field of the Kurdish issue, AKP initiated the peace process (Internal Peace) for the first time in the history of modern Turkey.


With HDP's seats in the parliament Kurds will for the first time have a political party to represent them. CHP and MHP are more reserved regarding the peace process. Nevertheless, AKP and HDP are also very serious about the current peace process due to the sensitive nature of the issue and resistance on the part of secular republican elites and pro-Islamistic Kurds.


Turkish civil society and especially the media have strengthened their power in recent years. The current problems in the media-government relations have shown what a difficult social process this is and how strongly it is influenced and burdened by negative experiences from the past.


Economists on the candidate lists


Interestingly, political parties have put many known names from the economic field on their tickets. Everyone is aware that the voters favour AKP for its successful economic policy. AKP has 18 candidates from the business world, among other former director of Istanbul Stock ExchangeMustafa İbrahim Turhan and former state secretary at the Ministry of Finance Naci Ağbal who will probably replace the government's economic strategistAli Babacan.


CHP has also put on its list 18 well-known business names. It also engagedKemal Derviş, former economic affairs minister and UN expert on development programmes, to prepare the party's economic programme.  MHP's business candidate isformer central bank governor Durmuş Yılmaz.


In terms of women's representation HDP has listed the highest number of women candidates (268), followed by CHP with 103, AKP with 99 and MHP with 40 women candidates.


Erdoğan – AKP's trademark


During the past decade Erdoğan has stabilised Turkey, regained its position in the regional and global political scene and ensured a better future for the country. He has proven to be the new era leader of the Turkish Republic. Nevertheless, his politics have also created opponents who do not want Turkey to be powerful and influential. For business people and foreign investors, Erdoğan represents security and stability of their investments.


Thanks to Erdoğan Turkey has become the oasis of peace in the turbulent region (civil war in Iraq and Syria, Iran's nuclear programme and reactions from the West, instability in the Black Sea region following Russia's annexation of Crimea). Turkish citizens want to preserve all the present government's positive achievements including social welfare, good employment conditions and high economic growth.


For a decade Turkey has been a candidate country for EU membership, and the deadlock in the negotiations is not good for either of the two sides. The fact that only one negotiating chapter has been opened during the last five years undermines EU's credibility among Turkish public. Continuation of the reform and negotiation process is of great importance for Turkey's future development, while the crisis-stricken EU needs a strong and stable member state with thriving economy. 


Another step in the development of the rising Turkish democracy


The IFIMES International Institute believes that the forthcoming parliamentary election is of great importance for the future of democracy in Turkey and will represent another step in the development of the rising Turkish democracy. An important task for Turkey is to abolish numerous parallel structures and bring the decision-making process bask into Turkish state institutions. This as well as the continuation of the initiated reforms, the Turkish-Kurdish peace process and provision of broader internal consensus and regional stability will represent the biggest challenges for the new government and for President Erdoğan.


Turkish voters are still not prepared to sacrifice Erdoğan and to vote for an option that has not been confirmed and that would represent a turn towards unpredictable and uncertain future. The citizens still remember CHP's rule (military coups, bankruptcies, devaluation of Turkish lira), so this party definitely represents uncertainty. Erdoğan's vision of Turkey's progress and development is much faster in comparison with what other actors have to offer. This divide is something that should be reduced in the future.


Ljubljana, 1 June 2015                                                                                                                                                               


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