If you landed on our planet on Monday morning and happened to end up in Turkey you would think that, judging by the general atmosphere in the country, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had barely managed to enter Parliament in Sunday's elections because of the 10 percent threshold. Yes, it is true that the AK Party, which has been used to landslide victories in the past three elections, was unable to win enough votes to enter Parliament with an absolute majority and thus form the government on its own and has thus received a massive warning from the dissatisfied masses, but it is also true that the AK Party won about 41 percent of the votes and remains the leading party in Turkey with its closest rival the Republican People's Party (CHP) winning only about 25 percent of the votes.
The AK Party's defeat in the Sunday polls is in relative terms. In fact, if the AK Party had not insisted on keeping the 10 percent threshold in the election system today it would again be in the commanding seat winning more seats than it did and thus forming the new government on its own. So the AK Party only has itself to blame for having fallen into the trap of the intricacies of the Turkish election system regarding the 10 percent threshold. No party in a viable democracy would be in this awkward position of having to be a part of a coalition despite winning 41 percent of the votes.
However, at the end of the day, the AK Party has been dealt a stunning blow by the voters who carried it to victory over the past 12 years. Now the AK Party has to do some serious soul searching and determine why some people who supported it in the past withdrew their support on Sunday. Now the AK Party has to decide what kind of a coalition it wants to set up because it is clear that no coalition will be formed without the top party. The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which won 13 percent of the votes and managed to enter Parliament with a respectable 80 seats, says it will not be a part of any coalition with the AK Party. Thus the AK Party will either try to join forces with the CHP or the ultra-conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Here is the major problem for the AK Party; the attitude of its potential coalition partners toward President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. During the election campaign the opposition piled on the criticism, insults and open enmity on Erdoğan. And the president, in return by entering the debate, hit back in kind. The fact that Erdoğan rallied for the AK Party drew much fire that is still red hot. The AK Party says any potential coalition partner has to agree not to harass Erdoğan and also has to accept the reconciliation process with the Kurds. The CHP may look favorably on the reconciliation process but the MHP openly wants it to be terminated. Both the CHP and MHP are in no mood to be lenient regarding Erdoğan.
What the AK Party has to do is to seek all the possible avenues for a coalition and do it openly sharing everything with the public. It also has to try and win back some of the lost votes which will be an uphill task. What is important is that the AK Party does not give the image to the voters that "you did not vote for me and look at the instability you created. You deserve what you get." Instead the AK Party has to make the voters feel that it has received the warning issued by the masses, that it is ready to put its house in order and thus acknowledge that "the voters, the citizen and the people are always right."
This can help the AK Party win back at least some of the lost ground even if it still may not get back all of it because despite all the good will and the positive talk it seems sooner or later Turkey will have to face new parliamentary elections.