Monday, June 13, 2011

Understanding Turkey’s Election Results

June 13, 2011

2007 Election Results
Ak Party %46.47.........341 MPs
CHP Percent %20.84.........112 MPs
MHP Percent %14.26..........71 MPs
Independents %5.19..........26 MPs

2011 Election Results
AK %49.46...........326 MPs
CHP %25.88...........135 MPs
MHP %12.97............53 MPs
BDP (+1) %6.65.............36 MPs

Below I have prepared some of the main questions concerning the recent elections. I tried not to get bogged down in details. However, like most political systems, the Turkish one can get quite complicated. If you have any questions concerning the recent elections, please feel free to ask them and submit them into the comment section. I will check it daily and answer any questions which come up. Also, all other comments would be appreciated!

If the ruling AK party has gained approx. 3.5 percent more votes than the 2007 elections, why have they lost seats in the Turkish parliament?

This is simply due to the ten-percent threshold needed for a party to enter politics. In 2002, the two parties entering the parliament, the AK party (34.8%), and the People’s Republican Party (CHP) (19.4) were the sole parties able to conjure up 10% of the vote allowing them to enter the parliament, leaving over 45 percent of the vote uncounted. Thus the 550 of the total seats of the parliament were divided up between the two parties with the AK party receiving 363 seats and the CHP 178 seats, and 9 seats going to independents, who due to only running a single candidate are not subject to the 10% threshold.

In 2007, fewer votes were wasted: the AK party won %46.47 of the vote (341 parliament seats), the CHP party won %20.85 (112 seats) and the National Action Party (MHP) recovered from the former elections receiving %14.29 (71 seats). The Kurdish Peace and Democratic party (BDP) (then known as DEHAP) opting a different strategy than 2002 decided to run independent candidates who once elected would form a party within the parliament, and received 22 seats, plus 3 other independents entered the parliament. In other words, only around 12.5 percent of the vote was thrown out due to the fact that it did not pass the 10% threshold.

During the current elections, the trend of voting for stable parties continued and therefore even though the AK party took %49.86 votes, the fact that the CHP improved by over 5 percent receiving %25.88 of the vote dented the AK party’s numbers in terms of parliamentary seats; this along with the fact that the BDP Kurdish bloc received a surprising 35 seats by running independents ( in addition to the BDP there was one other independent who entered the parliament, with the total vote for independents reaching %6.6. of the total vote). Lastly, the MHP votes dropped this time with them receiving %12.97. Therefore, during the current election only a mere 5 percent of the votes were not counted due to the high threshold leaving the final number of seats divided in the following order: AK party (326 seats), CHP (135 seats), MHP (53 seats), and the independents (36 seats). What we can learn from this (long) exercise is that the Turkish public has matured and during this election voted mostly only for the parties which they truly believed could pass the 10% threshold.

Did the AK party fall short of seats they needed in parliament?

Even with the current overwhelming victory, the fact that they did not receive 330 seats was a great disappointment since PM Erdoğan’s goal was to receive at least 330 seats, if not 367 seats. Why? 367 seats is exactly 2/3 of the parliament and this would allow his party to make constitutional changes without bringing the vote to a plebiscite, a general referendum. Now, if they had 330 seats they would be able to implement constitutional changes and then bring it to a general vote. However, without the 330 votes neither is possible. This leads Erdoğan into an internal crisis since his main goal is to continue to implement constitutional changes. Among these changes is his goal to change the Turkish political system giving the president of the Turkish republic extensive powers, a position he aims to take once his tenure of Prime Minister is over. While, it is quite possible that members of other parties might defect giving him the 330 seats, it generally points to the fact that the AK party alone will not decide the fate of Turkey, and PM Erdogan will need to work hand in hand with the BDP, CHP, or the MHP, if they want to make any drastic changes. Therefore, in this sense, even though the AK party received more votes, the fact that they received fewer seats makes their work much harder than the previous two governments they lead.

How many votes did the People’s Republican Party gain this election compared to the last election?

The CHP under the leadership of Kemal Kilicdaroglu gained 3.5 million votes than the last election. This was certainly due to the fact that the former head of the CHP, Deniz Baykal, finally left the party and opened the door for a more liberal group to enter. Now as an opposition, they will need to prove that their party is serious about change and their next major test will be in upcoming municipality elections, 2-3 years away, in addition to their parliamentary record.

Why did the BDP candidates gain 13 more seats than the last elections and what does this mean for the future of the Kurdish question?

The BDP’s impressive gain seats shows the urgency of the Kurdish issue. While not all of the BDP members are Kurdish, such as the Turkish film director Sırrı Süreyya Önder, who is of Turkman origin, they are seen by most as the political force which follows a close line with the outlawed PKK Kurdish organization, whose jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan is in constant contact with concerning the party’s agenda. In simple words, the gain in popularity shows that PM Erdogan cannot put off the Kurdish question much longer. Among those elected for parliament is the once 10 year imprisoned former parliament member Leyla Zana, and Ahmet Turk, who was recently barred from politics during the previous term. Topping their agenda is greater freedoms, and the introduction of public education being taught in Kurdish in the dominated populated Kurdish region in Turkey’s Southeast. In the future week’s I will hopefully readdress this issue in more detail.

How many women are now in the current parliament compared to the last one?

While this might be a small step, it certainly is a positive one. Women members of the Turkish parliament have gone up from 50 to 78. The AKP has 45, the CHP, 20, the MHP, 3, and the BDP has 11 bringing it up to 14% of the parliament; a long haul for equality in Turkey to say the least. It must be reminded that also since the Merve Kavakci scandal, when she was elected in 1999 and entered the parliament wearing an Islamic headscarf only to be thrown out, the AKP has not attempted to place a covered woman in parliament. It seems quite possible that this will be their goal for the next elections, hopefully an issue that all the parties can work towards solving in the upcoming term.

Are there any non-Muslim members in the new parliament?

The only non-Muslim in parliament is BDP member, Erol Dora. He is a Christian Assyrian from the city of Mardin which is a mixed Arab-Turkish-Kurdish city with once a large Assyrian Christian population. This is the first time a non-Muslim has entered parliament since Cefi Kamhi, who was a Jewish member for the True Path Party (DYP) from 1995-1999.

I hope this has helped clarify some of the election results! Once again, please feel free to submit questions in the comment section.

Warm regards from Istanbul,



  1. hi... what do you think?? will they be able to rewrite the constitution or make changes at least solely focused on individual rights and freedom?

  2. Hi,

    I had some questions about Turkey's foreign policy and Syria. Your newspaper article answered my questions.

    I wondered if there were any gay or lesbian parliament members?

  3. dear 3 inches of blood: this will be the main question of the next year or two. I will currently be writing a blog about the swearing of parliament members later today, and I will address this issue. Thanks!

  4. DEar Backlash Blues: Thanks for the nice comment! As for members of the LGBT community in the parliament. Until today, there are no open members of the parliament. A transgender woman ran in the CHP primaries but was not elected to the party list. In some of my older blogs I address this issue briefly, however, it seems there is a way to go until you have open parliament members and politicians, but of course it certainly is possible (especially among the smaller fringe parties).