A very tense and tumultuous election campaign is over. Both the presidency and the Parliament have been renewed through ballots. The participation has been incredibly high, almost 90 percent. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been re-elected with a better result than in 2014 and his party, together with the right-wing conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has obtained a comfortable majority in Parliament.
Normally, this would not be a huge surprise, since 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been winning elections, always leading in terms of votes cast and seats obtained in Parliament. This time, it was different for several reasons. First, the economic situation is not very promising. Except for the financial global crisis in 2008 and 2009, the Turkish economy fared well under the AK Party governance. This is practically the real strength of President Erdoğan and his party. This time, the unemployment and the inflationary pressure have damaged considerably the usually good references of the Turkish economy, causing a blunt and rapid depreciation of the national currency. President Erdoğan remains by far the most capable politician in domestic politics. Sensing that the economic situation could get his party and himself into turmoil, he has secured the support of Devlet Bahçeli and his party the MHP. He has been nominated as the common candidate for both the AK Party and MHP, also amending the electoral law to allow common lists for the parliament elections.
He has won at all the levels. The coalition formed by the AK Party and MHP secured a large majority in the Parliament and Erdoğan has been elected in the first round with 52.5 percent of the votes. After 16 years of uninterrupted governance, after having escaped a bloody coup attempt, the president's performance remains an achievement.
Just before the Election Day, on a very crowded central artery of Istanbul, the Halaskargazi Street, I saw an old woman, before the poster of Erdoğan, hung in between two trees, just standing in front of the picture, devotedly praying for him. This is not something one can encounter routinely before a voting contest. There is a very large population within Turkish society who identify themselves with Erdoğan. If his policies do not deliver enough, these people consider the political or economic failure as their own and support the president even more. I cannot think of any comparison except perhaps the mother of a sick child, leaving the shoes of her infant in 1970s on the grave of late Charles De Gaulle, French president and national hero. The position held by Erdoğan is not really that of a successful politician just like any other. He represents a rediscovered dignity and importance for a large segment of the society. The opposition, failing to establish a correct analysis, will always be very disappointed after each electoral bout.
This time, instead of the insipid campaigning of its leader, Kılıçdaroğlu, the Republican People's Party (CHP), the main opposition party, has chosen at the very last moment a secondary figure of the party, Muharrem İnce. The latter has given to the party apparatus and voters a motivation that was long lost. He secured a very good 30.7 percent, eight points more than his own political movement. It did not suffice; obviously, the CHP needs to establish an appealing vision of the future and a convincing program. Otherwise, its conventional electoral base could shrink even further.
The real surprise came from both the MHP and the very recently founded Good Party (İP), who secured more than 20 percent of the votes together. That shows the rise of a nationalistic feeling in Turkey, that owes much to the criminal policies of the PKK. The society feels threatened, both by the developments in external politics, in economic shortcomings and in foreign relations. Turkey collects blunder after blunder with its conventional long-time allies. The EU relations are at their worst, and the U.S. is trying to cut the grass beneath Turkey's feet by trying to delay the sale of F-35 fighters. In such a situation, Turkish society has turned again towards the paternalistic figure of a long-ruling president. For a very early analysis of the first election results, this is perhaps all what can be said with some certainty.