Henri J. Barkey writes: The upcoming June 7 parliamentary elections may prove to be far more dramatic than any in Turkey’s recent past. No matter what the outcome, the country is likely to be heading into an unprecedented crisis.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has staked Turkey’s future constitutional order on the outcome of the vote. Erdogan, after 11 years as prime minister with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has assumed the largely ceremonial position of president. While the president is supposed to be impartial, he has been campaigning ferociously in support of his old party because he wants it to win a comfortable majority in parliament — more than 330 seats in the 550-seat parliament, to be precise. Such an outcome will enable him to lay the groundwork for a new political system, which would shift power from the prime minister to a French-style executive president.
Erdogan is a towering figure of Turkish politics. He dominates his party, which in principle is being run by his handpicked prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. He has also succeeded in neutralizing the once dominant force of Turkish politics, the armed forces. He is used to getting what he wants, and brooks no opposition — just ask his erstwhile ally, the religious leader Fethullah Gülen, whose powerful network of schools, media outlets, and business associations in Turkey are being dismantled piece by piece after a falling out with Erdogan.
Polling results have varied quite a bit in this election. The AKP is averaging support in the low 40s, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is polling in the mid- to high 20s and the nativist Nationalist Action Party seems likely to receive roughly 13 percent of the vote. It is unlikely, but possible, that the AKP will win fewer than 276 seats, which would force the formation of a coalition government. AKP supporters appear worried and have put together a very aggressive campaign — using state resources for the task, and crowding out the other parties from the airwaves.
What stands in the way of Erdogan and his 330 seats in parliament is the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which represents a significant majority of Turkey’s Kurdish population. [Continue reading…]