Turkey Elections Deal Blow to Erdogan, Bring Coalition Uncertainty

by Alastair Jamieson /  / Updated 

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Turkey was facing weeks of political turmoil Monday after the ruling AK Party lost its parliamentary majority in weekend elections, dealing a blow to President Tayyip Erdogan's ambitions to acquire sweeping new powers.

Instead of the two-thirds majority he had wanted to change the constitution and create a new presidential republic, the AK Party failed even to achieve a simple majority for the first time in 13 years.

It leaves the prospect of difficult coalition negotiations between reluctant opposition parties. Another round of elections could be held if talks fail.

Jubilant Kurds flooded the streets of the southeastern city of Diyarbakir late Sunday, setting off fireworks and waving flags, after the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) crossed a 10 percent threshold to enter parliament for the first time.

The party was boosted by widening its appeal beyond its Kurdish core vote to center-left and secularists disillusioned with Erdogan.

"The discussion of an executive presidency and dictatorship have come to an end in Turkey," HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas told a news conference, describing the result as a victory "for those who want a pluralist and civil new constitution.”

Erdogan conceded Monday that no party had won a mandate to govern alone in a parliamentary election and urged all political parties to work together to maintain stability. "Our nation's opinion is above everything else," he said in a statement.

He spoke as Turkey’s currency, the lira, fell to a record low and share values plummeted as investors were spooked by the prospect of political uncertainty.

Erdogan, Turkey's most popular modern leader but not one used to compromise and negotiation, had hoped a crushing victory for the AKP would allow it to change the constitution and create a more powerful U.S.-style presidency. Opponents feared his vision lacked checks and balances, the judiciary already weakened by purges of officials Erdogan accuses of conspiring to topple him.

"Erdogan is the main loser given that he championed two big ideas: one a switch to a presidential system, the other single-party government," said Sinan Ulgen, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and chairman of the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. "Neither of them came about."

The secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) is once again the second-biggest group in parliament, with around a quarter of the vote, while the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took around 16 percent of the vote.

Both the MHP and the HDP ruled out any coalition deal with the AK Party.

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