In a stunning rebuke of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ambitions to expand his powers, Turkish voters stripped his party of its simple majority in parliament, preliminary election results showed Sunday.
With 99.9 percent of the vote counted, Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, had the support of around 41 percent of voters, state-run TRT media channel said. According to projections, that would give it some 258 seats — 18 below the minimum needed to keep its majority.
The unexpected setback for AKP likely puts an end, for the time being, to Erdogan’s hopes of passing constitutional changes that would have greatly boosted the powers of his office. Instead, he faces struggles to retain his pre-eminent place in Turkish politics without the obvious levers to steer the government through his party in parliament.
The result is also a bitter blow to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose political prospects are uncertain after leading his party to such a disappointing result. AKP will now have to seek a coalition partner to stay in power, with the nationalist MHP the most likely candidate.
The biggest setback for AKP came with the rise of the main pro-Kurdish party, HDP, which for the first time easily cleared the threshold of ten percent for representation as a party in the parliament. The preliminary results put its tally at almost 13 percent.
The main secular opposition Republican Peoples Party, or CHP, got about 25 percent of the vote, while MHP got just above 16 percent.
Erdogan himself was not on the ballot. Still, the election was effectively a vote 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.
“Erdogan turned the election into a referendum on his personal ambitions,” said Fadi Hakura, a Turkey specialist at London-based Chatham House. “These elections have put his plans on the back burner for a very long time.”