Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) seized another victory on November 1, 2015 general elections with 49,5 % of the total votes. JDP, ruled by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who replaced the President of the Republic Recep Tayyip Erdoğan few months ago, won 317 seats in the 550-seated Turkish Grand National Assembly and secured a large majority. However, JDP is still short of 2/3 qualified majority (367 seats needed for this) which Erdoğan asked for a smooth transition into Presidential system in order to be able to make constitutional changes without the support of the opposition parties. Republican People’s Party (RPP) got 25,3 % of the votes and won 134 seats. Nationalist parties Nationalist Action Party (NAP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) both lost votes and won fewer seats compared to earlier general elections in June 7. NAP will get 40 and PDP will get 59 seats in the parliament. Elections confirmed the high rate of volatility in Turkish politics since JDP increased its votes by 9 % only in 5 months. There might be several factors which contributed to the ultimate victory of JDP in these elections.
Opposition parties could not create an alternative government model:
After the shocking elections in June, opposition parties RPP, NAP and PDP had the chance to establish a coalition government and drive JDP into corner because of corruption files against the top names of this party. However, NAP leader Devlet Bahçeli refused to engage into coalition talks with RPP and PDP and thus, saved JDP from a political crisis. Although RPP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was humble enough to offer the post of Prime Ministry to Mr. Bahçeli, he did not envisage and make plans for a coalition government with NAP and PDP before the elections and did not give the picture of a potential Prime Minister to the voters. PDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş on the other hand, began to be seen as an uninfluential political figure after PKK attacks in Turkey. Thus, it is not surprizing to see that Turkish people punished opposition parties (NAP and PDP) and voted for JDP for the sake of stability.
Average Turkish voter does not care about democracy and freedoms:
Because of the relatively poor economic conditions of the country in terms of per capita income, average Turkish voter does not care too much about the level of democracy and freedoms in the country and give economic stability a more important place in his/her voting decision. Although this might be perceived as disturbing, this is also related to the realities of the world since there is no democracy -except India maybe- in the world with low per capita gdp.
Terrorism helped JDP to increase its votes:
Terrorist activities of ISIS and PKK in Turkey between June and November, helped the governing JDP to strengthen its position against opposition parties. JDP, with a clever strategy of perception management, pointed out terrorism as the direct consequence of the poor election results of the party in June and directed voters to vote for itself.
JDP creates domestic enemies:
Following the famous definition fo German philosopher Carl Schmitt on politics, JDP creates internal (domestic) enemies and mobilizes masses against them. This enemy can be changing from the interest rate lobby to Islamic movement of Fethullah Gülen or from coup planning generals to Kurdish secessionists, but the general idea does not change. JDP, as the party of the “good guy” (Erdoğan), fights against enemies of democracy in the name of Turkish people.
Opposition parties are not able to renew themselves and bring new issues to politics:
Opposition parties in Turkey are still using the rhetorics of 1970s and do not bring new political agendas that might surprize JDP and attract voters. JDP is a political party that has been formulated par excellence in terms of classical Turkish politics parameters. Thus, the only way to defeat this party is to bring new ideas, new projects, new agendas and new issues that can be politicized in the country. In the Western societies, gay-lesbian marriages, legalization of soft drugs, environmental rights, animal rights and internet freedoms are recent examples of new political parameters. Opposition parties in Turkey might find new and appropriate topics that might appeal to conservative Turkish voters but until now, they failed to do so.
JDP represents the state:
It must be also added that JDP is not only a political party, but similar to the single-party government of RPP in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, it represents the state in the country. Turkish political party system was evolved into a dominant-party system in recent years and JDP uses the advantage of representing the state in politics. It should not be forgotten that JDP choses governors, people who review these governors and also appoint judges that will decide on the fate of these people if there is a legal controversy or case.
Turkish intellectuals are hopeless:
Another observation related to Turkey is that in recent years Turkish intellectuals have become more and more hopeless against the quick rise of Islamism and authoritarianism in the country. Turkish intellectuals historically supported first the modernist Kemalist movement, then the left wing ideologies during the Cold War and the Kurdish political movement more recently on the basis of human rights and equality. But the unstoppable rise of Islamic movement in Turkey, caused the alienation of Turkish intellectuals from their country in the last years. RPP, a party that was supported by Turkish intellectuals in the 1970s under the leadership of Bülent Ecevit, is now a party that does not have organic ties with the Turkish intelligentsia. Islamization of NAP starting from the 1970s, made this party an anti-intellectual political organization and distanced the Turkish intelligentsia. PDP on the other hand, took large support from Turkish intellectuals in recent years, but the party never achieved to become a democratic political party condemning terrorism and appealing to all segments of Turkish society.
A fifth party might be needed to change the government:
Looking at current voting percentages, one might conclude that the only way to change the JDP government is to establish or find a fifth political party that will pass the 10 % electoral threshold. This party must be situated at the center with a liberal ideology that might appeal to both left and (especially) right wing voters and must be able to take votes from the governing JDP. The support of Gülen movement here might be a key to success for such a party. This party might change the political balances in the country and might engage in new coalition models with RPP, NAP and PDP.
Transition into Presidential system is still difficult:
Although JDP had an undisputed victory in general elections, Erdoğan’s plan for transition into Presidential system still does not seem very realistic. JDP needs the support of an opposition party for such a reform, but it seems irrational for opposition parties and leaders to help Erdoğan for transition into presidentialism. Turkey will probably have a de-facto semi-presidential system similar to the early years of the Fifth Republic in France and President and Prime Minister will learn to cohabitate their powers.
Assist. Prof. Dr. Ozan ÖRMECİ