Since the AK Party will stay around

Published 05.11.2015 01:55
Updated 05.11.2015 14:09

The Nov. 1 parliamentary elections will go down in history as an exceptional affair with a surprise ending. At the end of the day, millions of voters ushered in a period of renewed political stability in Turkey and marks the end of a rough patch that the country hit in 2013. Having made a memorable comeback, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) now has an opportunity to reclaim the driver's seat and implement reforms. As such, the election represents the Turkish people's approval of the New Turkey agenda.

Sunday's election proved yet again that the AK Party is the single most extraordinary political party in Turkey's history. No party in the past had been able to win the parliamentary majority after witnessing a major decline in their popular support. No other movement, likewise, could shake off the exhaustion of 13 consecutive years at the helm so rapidly. Then again, the AK Party has been exceptional in many ways. In the end, they reclaimed the parliamentary majority by securing the support of 49.4 percent of all voters - practically the same share as 2011. It goes without saying that any political organization that can win back nine percentage points by honestly reflecting on their mistakes deserves some recognition.

On Sunday, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lost four points, while the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) barely passed the national threshold after dropping 2.5 points. The fringe parties, including the Felicity Party (SP) and the Grand Union Party (BBP), lost another two points. In light of the above data, the November parliamentary election established the following: The memory of everything that happened between June 7 and Nov. 1 was quite fresh. The people, in turn, punished all the political parties that they held responsible for five months of turmoil.

The MHP leadership's mistake was to single-handedly create a political deadlock by blocking the coalition talks - a move that many loyalists deemed irresponsible and ultimately bad for the country. The Kurdish nationalist HDP, according to a number of analysts and commentators, missed a historic opportunity to transform the left flank by failing to distance themselves from the PKK - a terrorist organization according to Turkey and the United States, among others. Unable to keep the momentum of their notable success in the June contest going, the HDP leadership mistakenly thought that it could avoid addressing the PKK's challenge to civilian politics. Meanwhile, the Republican People's Party (CHP) entered Sunday's race after failing to strike a deal with the AK Party and proving unable to form a fragile tripartite anti-AK Party bloc in Parliament. Although the Republican People's Party's (CHP) campaign appealed to the moderates, the party ultimately failed to create hype and ended up exactly where it was before the failed coalition talks.

The parliamentary election established that none of the opposition parties looked like serious alternatives to the AK Party in the electorate's eyes. More importantly, however, was the realization that the sheer opposition to the AK Party wasn't enough to accumulate political power. Having failed to unite despite their mutual dislike of the ruling party, the three opposition movements will have to wait until 2019 to try their luck again.

Provided that the stakes will be higher in four years, each political party must honestly reflect on the election results. At the end of the day, each player will be on an equal footing in the legislative assembly and opposition leaders will have to do better than blaming all their problems on what they like to call the AK Party's "politics of fear and war" if they want to present the people with viable alternatives to existing policies. Another challenge for the opposition will be to avoid extra-parliamentary instruments, including violence, in their efforts to undermine the ruling party. The CHP leadership, in particular, will need to find a way to reclaim the center left by preventing hardliners from hijacking the party. The AK Party, in turn, has a list of homework assignments of its own: Crack down on terrorist networks, fight the Gülen Movement and draft a new Constitution, which has been on the table for years.

One more thing: What Turkey desperately needs, above and beyond party politics, is an end to the elite-level tensions that trigger political polarization across the country. The obvious way to fix the problem is for all the political parties to work together to replace the junta-sanctioned 1982 Constitution and address the various challenges associated with the Syrian civil war.

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