The upcoming election is crucial for Turkey. It will either signify the continuation of the reform process, which has been ongoing for several years, or the beginning of a return to the old Turkey
Turkey is heading toward the June 7 general elections, to which more significance has been attributed than to an ordinary election. The election results will either signify the continuation of the reform process, which has been ongoing for several years, or the beginning of a return to the old Turkey. The favorite party of the elections is the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the voting rate for which is oscillating between 45 percent and 48 percent according to the latest opinion polls. The AK Party, which has been in power since 2002, administrated by its legendary leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan until 2014, put the country into a rapid transformation process. When Erdoğan was elected president, he was succeeded by Ahmet Davutoğlu as prime minister, who had served as foreign minister for many years.
With the initiation of the reconciliation process, the AK Party rule ended the 30-year civil war that was waged by the separatist Kurdish movement, the PKK, which had resulted in the deaths of 50,000 people. Legal amendments were made regarding the democratic aspect of the Kurdish question. The ban on politics was removed completely. Major reforms were carried out, such as allowing propaganda in mother tongues and making the closure of parties difficult. Coup periods, which had been the greatest problem of Turkish democracy since its establishment, were embedded in its history with institutional measures. Military tutelage was considerably decelerated. The military is no longer an institution that stages coups every 10 years and issues memoranda, and is now a power that is in charge of the country's external security. Kurds and the religious majority, who were kept on the periphery of the economy, politics and cultural life, were brought to the center of these fields with the perspective of equal citizenship.
Another major reason why the AK Party has emerged victorious in nine elections in a row over 13 years and why it is the favorite party for the June 7 general elections is its success in the economic field. AK Party rule has implemented positive policies in favor of economically disadvantaged segments of society and is also making huge investments in infrastructure. The middle class has expanded from 20 percent to 40 percent and astronomical inflation figures have dropped to one-digit figures. Revenue items, such as exports and tourism, are systematically soaring. According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Turkey is one of the most successful countries in terms of employment and income balance.
In the upcoming period as well, the AK Party wants to maintain its objective of achieving a democratic, transparent, civil and developed country, which it calls "New Turkey." To this end, its basic election campaign promise is to replace the paralyzed parliamentary system, which dooms Turkey to unstable coalition governments, with a presidential system. This will be possible with issuing a new civil and democratic constitution abolishing the present Constitution, which was drawn up after the Sept. 12, 1980 coup.
Other parties are also expected to have seats in Parliament after the elections. The vote for the Republican People's Party (CHP), which is the founding party of modern Turkey and receives votes from Turkey's elite segments, is around 25 percent. The CHP, which raises severe objection to the country's reform process, argues that Turkey should turn back to the founding philosophy of 1923.
As another element of the elections, the vote for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is around 15 percent. It seems that the MHP will preserve the votes it received in previous elections. As an ultra-nationalist party, the MHP regards steps for democratization, such as the reconciliation process, as "treason," even though the process aims to end the civil war. The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is the key party in the general elections. The party, which is the legal wing of the PKK, has a fixed vote around 6 percent. The party hopes to enter Parliament by passing the 10-percent election threshold. If the HDP passes the election threshold, the AK Party's wish to achieve the number of deputies required to establish a civil constitution without opposition will fizzle out. That is why all parties that form a de facto alliance against the AK Party nourish sympathy for the HDP, although they do not approve of its separatist discourse. Despite this support, surveys reveal that the HDP faces a hard task receiving around the one million votes required to pass the threshold.
For many years, Turkey has experienced poverty due to political crises and terror caused by coalition governments. As they have been enjoying stability for 13 years, none of Turkey's people want to go back to the Turkey of the 1990s when 17,000 unidentified murders were committed and overnight interest rates hit three-digit numbers. As long as opposition parties promise to reinstate past experiences and the old Turkey instead of promising for the future, this picture is unlikely to change either on June 7, or even after the 2019 elections.