6 Mayıs 2015 Çarşamba

2015 Turkish General Elections

General elections in Turkey will be held on 7 June 2015 in order to elect the 550 members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM). The election will be the 24th general election in the history of modern Turkish Republic. In this piece, I will try to analyze Turkey’s 2015 general elections.

The governing Justice and Development Party (JDP) seems to be the clear favorite of the elections after their consecutive victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011 general elections in addition to 2004, 2009, 2014 local elections and 2014 Presidential elections. However, this will be the first election for the party without Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s charismatic leadership. Erdoğan, now the President of the Republic, strongly defends his party’s proposal to transform the system into a Presidential regime and gives his clear support to JDP leader Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu, although according to constitution, the President of the Republic should be a neutral person. Davutoğlu took over the party’s leadership in August 2014 and until now, he managed to keep the party together though recent polls show that the party lost few percent of its votes after the leadership change. JDP’s aim is to get more than 330 seats in the parliament in order to be able to make a referandum for the transition into Presidential system. They need at least 276 seats to continue with their single party government, but in case of below 330 seats, it seems that they will have to continue with the de-facto semi-Presidentialism. JDP bases its electoral propaganda mostly on sustainable economic growth, continuation of peace process with the PKK and  the necessity of Presidential system for good governance in the country.[1] Although it is not stated very openly in the electoral propaganda after Davutoğlu’s leadership, who seems more careful about the protection of secularism compared to Erdoğan, the party takes a lot of support from Islamist circles and religious brotherhoods and sects. Thus, as the party that represents Islam in the political scene most, which is another violation according to the Turkish constitution, they enjoy the advantage of being supported by the pious masses.

Pro-European social democratic Republican People’s Party (RPP), as usual, seems to be the second party in the electoral race. Having tranformed into a catch-all party under Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership, the party acts as a European social democratic party at a time when EU-Turkey relations hit the bottom. The party is blamed with the problematic history of Kemalist Republic concerning its attitude towards Islamism (political Islam) and Kurdish nationalism. Although negative effects of these two extremist ideologies, normally outlawed in the system by the Constitutional Court decisions, are very visible in recent years, the party still could not get enough votes and credits from right-wing voters. RPP promises an increase in minimum wage, employment opportunities for one million people each year and an institutionalized family insurance system for urban poor and unemployed people in its economic program. The party uses vague statements about the peace process with the PKK and they seem to support the process with the condition of Turkish Parliament to be the legitimate source for peace talks instead of Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT). RPP clearly rejects Presidentialism and they want to continue with the old parliamentary system which has automatically turned into semi-Presidentialism with the election of Erdoğan as the first popularly elected President of the Republic. Considering education, RPP has an assertive program and they propose 13 years uninterrupted education to combat with patriarchy and religious or nationalist extremism. They also want to turn compulsory religious courses into elective courses similar to many other democratic countries.[2]

Nationalist Action Party (NAP), continues with its classical Turkish nationalist rhetoric under the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli and tries to attract right-wing voters by warning against the danger of Kurdish secessionism. Similar to RPP, they propose an increase in minimum wage, employment opportunities for 700.000 people, a new social security service (hilalkart) for unemployed and poor people in terms of economics. They completely reject the negotiation process with the terrorist organization (PKK) and its leader (Abdullah Öcalan) and want to use the state’s hard power to eliminate terrorism. They reject Presidential model similar to RPP and strongly defends first three unchangeable principles of the constitution.[3] Although a right-wing party, NAP defends very similar policies with the social democratic RPP and now presents itself as a center-right party compared to racist far right parties in Europe. However, since for NAP, the most important issue is the protection of the unitary state, they could engage in a coalition government with JDP easily after the election.  

Kurdish nationalist People’s Democracy (Democratic) Party (PDP) will try to surpass the 10 % electoral threshold for the first time in this election. Before, the party was represented in the parliament by means of independent Kurdish candidates. The party, under the leadership of Selahattin Demirtaş, tries to appeal to left-wing voters in addition to its classical Kurdish nationalist base. However, the party is often considered as an anti-Turk party which operates against Turkish state’s interests and thus, could not get many votes. PDP promises a very good increase in minimum wage, defends autonomy of densely Kurdish populated southeastern Anatolia region in addition to compulsory education in Kurdish language. The party also wants to make all office holders, including governors etc., to be elected by popular vote and proposes a new civilian constitution. However, PDP leaders do not speak very clearly about whether they support Presidentialism or not. Obviously, the party wants to use all options in order to increase Kurdish rights either with Erdoğan-led Presidentialism or within the current semi-Presidentialism.[4]

Recent polls suggest that[5] there is no question about the ranking: JDP will be the winner, RPP the second, NAP the third and PDP the fourth. But PDP’s performance concerning 10 % threshold and the vote percentages of the other parties could change the whole picture. If we take the average of 10 latest polls; JDP will get something around 43,2 %, RPP 26,1 %, NAP 16,6 % and PDP 9,6 %.[6] If PDP stays below 10 % threshold, this means that JDP will get additional 40-50 seats from southeastern Anatolia and will be very close to 330 seats.[7] With PDP taking more than 10 %, it can be very difficult for JDP to carry on its single party government. Then, the party might try to form a coalition government with RPP, NAP or PDP. Although the party’s position is not clear on the issue, they might establish a coalition government with NAP primarily, because both parties are backed up by some Islamist groups and religious brotherhoods. However, in this case, JDP has to terminate the peace talks with the imprisoned PKK leader Öcalan. NAP could even support the transition into Presidentialism in case of the protection of 3 unchangeable principles of the constitution including most importantly the unitary nature of the state. JDP will not prefer RPP for a coalition, because this party completely opposes to Presidentialism which is Erdoğan's biggest aim. It might not be tactically good for JDP also to strengthen its biggest rival by means of coalition partnership, although this kind of coalitions can be seen in Germany. JDP might also make a coalition with PDP in case they surpass the threshold, but this will bring the risk of strong polarization in the country since RPP and NAP could develop a strong nationalist opposition then. Thus, the most probable scenarios after the elections are;
  1. JDP government with 290-320 seats (PDP out), continuation of semi-Presidentialism,
  2. JDP-NAP coalition (PDP in), transition into Presidentialism with the current constitution and unitary state structure.
  3. JDP government with 330 seats (PDP out), referandum for a Presidential system,
  4. JDP-PDP coalition.
It seems to me that the first or the second scenario will be realized after the general elections. If the first scenario is not realized, NAP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s decisions (joining the coalition or not and allowing Presidentialism or not) will be very critical for the second option. In any case, Turkish politics will be more focused on Turkey's domestic problems in the following months.


[1] “Karşılaştırmalı seçim beyannameleri”, AlJazeera Türk, Erişim Tarihi: 06.05.2015, Erişim Adresi: http://www.aljazeera.com.tr/al-jazeera-ozel/karsilastirmali-secim-beyannameleri.
[2]  “Karşılaştırmalı seçim beyannameleri”, AlJazeera Türk, Erişim Tarihi: 06.05.2015, Erişim Adresi: http://www.aljazeera.com.tr/al-jazeera-ozel/karsilastirmali-secim-beyannameleri.
[3]  “Karşılaştırmalı seçim beyannameleri”, AlJazeera Türk, Erişim Tarihi: 06.05.2015, Erişim Adresi: http://www.aljazeera.com.tr/al-jazeera-ozel/karsilastirmali-secim-beyannameleri.
[4]  “Karşılaştırmalı seçim beyannameleri”, AlJazeera Türk, Erişim Tarihi: 06.05.2015, Erişim Adresi: http://www.aljazeera.com.tr/al-jazeera-ozel/karsilastirmali-secim-beyannameleri.
[5] “Opinion polling for the 2015 Turkish general election”, Wikipedia, Erişim Tarihi: 06.05.2015, Erişim Adresi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2015_Turkish_general_election.
[6] “Son 10 anketin ortalamasına göre, hangi parti yüzde kaç oy alacak?”, T24, Erişim Tarihi: 06.05.2015, Erişim Adresi: http://m.t24.com.tr/haber/son-10-anketin-ortalamasina-gore-hangi-parti-yuzde-kac-oy-alacak,293977.

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