IN A stunning blow to president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, preliminary election results in Turkey’s parliamentary election yesterday suggested that his party could lose its majority in parliament.
With about 97 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, was well ahead of other parties with the support of just over 41 per cent, according to state-run TRT television. But the projections gave it about 260 seats – 16 below the minimum to keep its majority.
In an indication of how precipitously Mr Erdogan’s fortunes have fallen in the campaign, he had begun the campaign asking voters for 400 seats, a massive majority that would have allowed the party to change the constitution to give the presidency extraordinary powers. AKP needed a majority of 330 seats of the total 550 to call for a national referendum to change the constitution. With 367 seats, it would be able vote in a change without a referendum.
In the biggest setback to the ruling party’s chances, the HDP, the main Kurdish party was running last night at about 12 per cent of the vote – above the 10 per cent minimum for representation in parliament.
The main secular opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP was at about 25 per cent of the vote, while the nationalist MHP was just under 17 per cent.
AKP received around 49 per cent of the vote in general elections in 2011.
The setback would be first time that the party is faced with falling short of a majority to rule alone since it swept into power in 2002. As the tally came into focus, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu gave a nod to democracy.
“The people’s decision is the most correct decision,” he said, while boarding a bus to the airport. He was set to fly from his hometown of Konya to the capital, Ankara.
Mr Erdogan himself was not a candidate in the ballot. Still, the election was effectively a referendum on whether to endow his office with powers that would significantly change Turkey’s democracy and prolong his reign as the country’s most powerful politician.
The vote came amid high tensions after bombings Friday during a HDP rally killed two people and wounded scores more.