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Erdogan’s Ruling Party Seen Losing Majority in Turkish Parliament

Turkey Celebrates After Polls Close 0:55

ANKARA, Turkey — In a stunning blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, preliminary results from Turkey's parliamentary election Sunday suggested that his party could lose its simple majority in Parliament.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, had the support of around 41 percent of voters, according to state-run TRT television. According to projections, that would give it 258 seats — 18 below the minimum needed to keep its majority.

In an indication of how precipitously Erdogan's fortunes have fallen, he had begun the campaign asking voters for 400 seats, a massive majority that would have allowed the party to change the constitution to give the president extraordinary powers. AKP would have needed a majority of 330 seats of the total 550 to call for a national referendum to change the constitution.

In the biggest setback to the ruling party's chances, the main Kurdish party, HDP, was running at about 12 percent — above the 10 percent threshold for representation in Parliament.

Image: HDP Kurdish party supporters celebrate in Diyarbakir
Supporters celebrate election results outside HDP Kurdish party headquarters Sunday in Diyarbakir, Turkey. OSMAN ORSAL / Reuters

The main secular opposition Republican Peoples Party, or CHP, was seen getting about 25 percent of the vote, while the nationalist MHP was expected to get less than 17 percent.

AKP received about 49 percent of the vote in general elections in 2011. The setback would be first time that the party is faced with falling short of a majority to rule alone since it swept into power in 2002.

Erdogan has been Turkey's dominant politician since his party swept into power in 2002 — becoming prime minister in 2003 and leading his party to two overwhelming parliamentary election victories. In a gamble last year, he decided to run for president, banking that his party could later bolster his powers.

Erdogan himself wasn't on the ballot Sunday. Still, the election was effectively a referendum on whether to endow his office with powers that would significantly change Turkey's democracy and prolong his reign as the country's most powerful politician.

"This is the victory of democracy over loutishness, of freedom over oppression, of modesty over conceit, of peace over war," said Sirri Sureyya Onder, a senior HDP official.

The vote came amid high tensions after bombings Friday during a HDP rally killed two people and wounded scores or others.