Turkey fac­ing tur­bu­lence af­ter Er­do­gan poll blow


Turkey on Mon­day en­tered a new pe­riod of po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial tur­bu­lence af­ter Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s rul­ing party lost its ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment for the first time since com­ing to power in 2002.

The un­cer­tainty swiftly rat­tled fi­nan­cial mar­kets, with stocks tum­bling in morn­ing trade and the Turk­ish lira plum­met­ing in value against the U.S. dollar.

The Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party (AKP) has dom­i­nated Turk­ish pol­i­tics for the last 13 years but came up well short of a ma­jor­ity of seats in Sun­day’s leg­isla­tive elec­tions due to a break­through show­ing by the pro-Kur­dish Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (HDP).

A coali­tion gov­ern­ment and early elec­tions are both now pos­si­bil­i­ties, in a sit­u­a­tion un­prece­dented since the Is­lamic-rooted AKP swept to power.

The re­sults wrecked the am­bi­tion of Er­do­gan — prime min­is­ter from 2003 to 2014 and now pres­i­dent — of agree­ing a new con­sti­tu­tion to switch Turkey from a par­lia­men­tary to a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem.

Such a change would have re­quired a two-thirds ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment. Just months be­fore the elec­tion, Er­do­gan had been tar­get­ing 400 seats for the AKP.

How­ever Er­do­gan’s state­ment re­mained strictly pres­i­den­tial, in con­trast to his hugely par­ti­san be­hav­iour on be­half of the AKP in the cam­paign.

In his first re­ac­tion to the re­sult, Er­do­gan ac­knowl­edged that the AKP would not be able to gov­ern alone and urged Turkey’s po­lit­i­cal forces to show re­sponsi- bil­ity in “a new process.”

“Ac­cord­ing to the avail­able re­sults, no party will be able to gov­ern alone,” he said in a state­ment re­leased by the pres­i­dency that hailed the con­duct of the elec­tions.

“Po­lit­i­cal forces (should) show re­spon­si­ble be­hav­ior and the nec­es­sary sen­si­tiv­ity to pre­serve the at­mos­phere of sta­bil­ity and con­fi­dence in our coun­try and our demo­cratic achieve­ments,” he said.

‘Er­do­gan the loser’

The AKP won 41 per­cent of the vote, fol­lowed by the Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP) on 25 per­cent, the Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party (MHP) on 16.5 per­cent and the HDP in fourth place with 13 per­cent. Turnout was 86.5 per­cent. The re­sult marked a ma­jor drop in sup­port for the AKP — which in the last polls in 2011 won al­most 50 per­cent of the vote — against the back­ground of a weak­en­ing econ­omy.

The AKP will have 258 seats in the 550-seat par­lia­ment, the CHP 132, and the MHP and HDP 80 apiece.

“A new era,” said the head­line in the Mil­liyet daily. “The col­lapse,” added the strongly an­tiEr­do­gan Sozcu. “Vot­ers showed Tayyip the red card.”

The pro-gov­ern­ment Yeni Safak said early elec­tions were “on the hori­zon,” with “weak” pos­si­bil­i­ties of a coali­tion.

But Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Nu­man Kur­tul­mus played down the chance of early elec­tions ahead of a cabi­net meet­ing chaired by Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu, say­ing it was the “most dis­tant pos­si­bil­ity.”

An­a­lysts have seen the na­tion­al­ist MHP as the most likely coali­tion part­ner for the AKP in the new par­lia­ment.

An­other Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, Bulent Arinc, even sug­gested that the MHP, CHP and HDP should try and form a coali­tion be­tween them­selves.

The re­sult was a tri­umph for the HDP, which in the cam­paign had sought to present it­self as a gen­uinely Turk­ish party and reach out to vot­ers be­yond its mainly Kur­dish sup­port base to secular Turks, women and gays.

It was also a per­sonal victory for the party’s charis­matic leader Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas, dubbed the “Kur­dish Obama” by some for his silky rhetor­i­cal skills.

“There is just one loser in the elec­tion — Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan,” pro-op­po­si­tion com­men­ta­tor Hasan Ce­mal wrote in an ed­i­to­rial for the T24 web­site. “And the win­ner is the HDP.”

‘Ugly mix of prob­lems’

The par­ties now have 45 days to form a coali­tion, af­ter which new elec­tions would have to be called.

With in­vestors ner­vous, the BIST 100 in­dex on the Istanbul stock ex­change was down 6.2 per­cent while the Turk­ish lira lost 4.0 per­cent in value against the dollar to trade at 2.76 lira to the dollar.

“The as­so­ci­ated po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty only adds to an ugly mix of ex­ist­ing prob­lems for Turkey,” said Wil­liam Jack­son at Cap­i­tal Eco­nomics in Lon­don, cit­ing high in­fla­tion, the cur­rent ac­count deficit, and a rapid in­crease in pri­vate sec­tor debt.

“Turkey is per­haps the most vul­ner­a­ble of any ma­jor emerg­ing mar­ket at this time,” he said in a re­search note.

Turkey’s cen­tral bank acted swiftly in an in­ter­ven­tion to give some sup­port to the lira, say­ing it was prun­ing its short term for­eign ex­change de­posit rates, ef­fec­tive from Tues­day.

(Left) Sup­port­ers of pro-Kur­dish Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP) cel­e­brate in the streets of Di­yarbakir fol­low­ing the re­sults of the Turk­ish leg­isla­tive elec­tions on Sun­day, June 7. (Right) Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party (AKP) sup­port­ers light flares at Istanbul’s AKP head­quar­ters on Sun­day.


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