Turkey Post-Elections: Will Erdoğan Be Balanced by the Opposition?

06/09/2015 05:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2016

The Republic of Turkey has undergone a seismic domestic political shift, as millions of Turkish citizens headed to the polls on June 7 and created a new parliament with four seated parties. Notably, this is the first time a party rooted in the Kurdish political movement has been able to pass the 10 percent electoral threshold since its introduction by the military administration of the 1980 coup.

A key issue of this election was the possible future change of Turkey's system of government. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hoped to transform Turkey's democracy from a parliamentary system into a presidential system featuring far weaker checks and balances and largely crippled the separation of powers - effectively making Erdoğan a much more powerful executive. Some have even called this an attempt at a "Putinesque presidency."

With the AKP remaining at 40.8 percent of the vote, it received 258 out of 550 possible seats in the parliament, 18 short of the 276 required to enable a single-party government. This means that after 12 years of uninterrupted rule (which began a year after the party's establishment in 2001), the AKP will have to form a coalition government by allying with at least one of the opposition parties. Given President Erdoğan's authoritarian stance displayed over the past few years, these parties currently have no appetite for a coalition with the AKP.

A second key issue to watch during this election was whether the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP) would cross the 10 percent threshold and enter Turkey's parliament. With polls oscillating between 9.2 and 10.3 percent, nobody expected the HDP to win a resounding 13.11 percent of the vote, which granted the party 80 seats in the parliament - a record for the Kurdish political movement.

In a crowdsourced simulation conducted prior to the election in Turkey, Wikistrat's community of analysts predicted the possibility of the AKP winning only 40 percent of the vote, and that the HDP could indeed cross the 10 percent threshold. Our analysts addressed the implications of such a scenario in a report released just before the elections entitled Minority Rule: The Kurdish Key to the Turkish Elections.

Structural Forecast

Now that Turkey's elections are over, the country is set to face several issues of significance. Wikistrat experts identified the most critical of these would be the looming governance crisis. In a polarized political setting where all parties stretch the political continuum, the political center - from which a country is governed - remains hollow. In the absence thereof, the AKP will find sharply increased political resistance to its previous polarization tactics and will thus find it increasingly difficult to govern. In coalition talks, the party will have to make many concessions to its counterparts since the political cost of partnering with the AKP is too high for the opposition.

Second, there will be a temporary slowdown in economic growth. Wikistrat analysts attribute that largely to plummeting financial trust in the country's legal and financial structure, excessive intrusions of President Erdoğan into the financial apparatus in a way that hampers these institutions' ability to function, and the negatively populist approach of the economic advisory circle around Erdoğan himself - the latter of which tops the list of reasons for the recent departure of foreign investment. Although a coalition government may sound like an exacerbating factor for such a flight, foreign investors have already begun leaving Turkey after Ankara's repeated pursuit of hazardous public policies. Turkey has become a rare example where a long-serving, single-party government's continued electoral success has led to a decline in investor confidence, rather than the other way around. While this does not necessarily imply that a coalition government will see better economic performance, it will at least halt the persistently confrontational stance between Turkish financial institutions and investors.

Finally, Wikistrat's analytic community predicts that the Kurdish situation will likely enter a period of calm, partly owing to the acceptance of the HDP into the parliament through popular vote. With the current parliament representing 95 percent of the electorate, it has a better chance of negotiating a new, civilian constitution, as well as resolving the Kurdish question on peaceful grounds. It must be noted, however, that the HDP's entry into the parliament is a lesson to the PKK, as well as to the AKP. In the medium term, the sustainability of peace in Turkey will be contingent upon how much the PKK receives the message that Turks reward peaceful, progressive Kurdish politics - and that armed conflict will only harm Kurdish ambitions.