23/07/2007 - Results
As all the polls forecast the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the early general elections that took place in Turkey on 22nd July. It was an historic, all time first for a Turkish party which had just spent five years governing the country. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 46.30% of the vote and 339 seats, the absolute majority in the Grand National Assembly, the only Chamber in Parliament (550 seats in all). The AKP progressed by 12.62 points in comparison with the last general elections on 3rd November 2002 even though it lost 24 seats. Its result is higher than was forecast by the polls and should allow it to rule alone according to the wishes of the Prime Minister who on 17th July last threatened to leave politics if his party did not win alone a wide enough majority to form the next government.
The main opposition party, the People's Republican Party (CHP) led by Deniz Baykal, which predominates in the west of the country won 20.91% and 112 seats (-66). The National Action Party (MHP), an ultra-nationalist party led by Devlet Bahceli, made a return to the Grand National Assembly winning 14.27% of the vote (71 seats), a number of which were in the south of the country. A 10% minimum threshold of votes won nationally is required to have seats in the Parliament. 28 independent MPs including 24 Kurds will be making their entry into the Grand National Assembly. The True Path Party (DP) a centre-right party led by Mehmet Agar won 5.37% of the vote and the Young Turks Party (GP) a rightwing party led by Cem Uzan won 3% of the vote.
The participation rate was slightly higher than that recorded in the last elections (+ 2,3 points) rising to 81.30%. It is obligatory to vote in Turkey even though those who abstain are rarely punished.
The Prime Minister welcomed his party's victory when the results were announced. "Democracy has achieved an important victory. However you voted we respect your choice. We believe these differences are an integral part of pluralism. It is our responsibility to preserve this wealth," declared Recep Tayyip Erdogan adding, "We shall continue democratic reform; economic development will continue. We shall continue to work with determination to achieve our objectives with the European Union. "Democracy has won. Voters have acknowledged that the government has accomplished good things and provided it with a new mandate," stressed AKP Vice-President Salih Kapusuz. The Prime Minister's Party succeeded in resisting against major mobilisation on the part of the secular parties to win through as the central party of the political arena in spite of the wear and tear of rule over the past five years.
This success offers the AKP popular legitimacy strengthening it against the armed forces who on several occasions since 2002 (and notably last May during the aborted election of the President of the Republic) have warned and even threatened the government which they accuse of wanting to Islamise Turkish society. The Prime Minister defines himself as a conservative democrat; he has demonstrated pragmatism by focussing his electoral campaign on socio-economic issues, wiping away all reference to Islam in his speeches and re-organising his party, replacing for example half of the outgoing MPs by new figures of consensus. He now has to succeed in rallying the more liberal members of his party with the conservative, religious factions who want Islam to play a greater role.
These general elections were a failure for the opposition forces; they dramatised the stakes at play and were split between religious and nationalist issues; they found themselves incapable of offering any real alternative to the AKP. Beaten by the leaders of the AKP the secular, republican elites, who had the support of the armed forces must imperatively modernise if they hope to get back into power quickly. The opposition forces are now being called to build on a progressive, open project that will be able to compete against the AKP.
53 years old, Recep Tayyip Erdogan who originates from the Kasimpasa area (Istanbul) started his political career in the ranks of National Vision, an organisation led by Necmettin Erbakan before following the latter into Islamic National Salvation Party (MSP) then into the Prosperity Party (Refah). Elected mayor of Istanbul in 1994 Recep Tayyip Erdogan became extremely popular by improving inhabitants' living conditions (improving the distribution of water and electricity) and by leading a fierce battle against corruption. On 6th December 1997 he was banned from political activities for five years by the Constitutional Court of Turkey and sentenced to prison for "having encouraged religious hatred," and for having recited some verses by the nationalist poet Ziya Gökalp in public. After this he drew away from Necmettin Erbakan, whose party was dissolved by the Constitutional Court in 1997, to found the Justice and Development Party in 2001. The AKP won the general elections on 3rd November 2002 but Erdogan could not become head of State immediately since he could not take part in the election due to his five year prohibition of taking part in political activities (the electoral law demands that the Prime Minister is also an MP). He finally became head of government after having won a seat in Siirt, his wife's home-town, during the by-elections of March 11th 2003.
During his term in office as head of the country Recep Tayyip Erdogan has transformed Turkey extending minority rights, allowing the broadcast of programmes in Kurdish on the radio and on TV and enabling the launch of private Kurdish education centres. A strong supporter of the country's integration into the EU, Erdogan won the promise of the opening of membership negotiations in December 2004. These started on 3rd November 2005 but the procedure was partly suspended in December 2006 because of the veto placed by the Republic of Cyprus. This followed Turkey's refusal to open its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and planes, a refusal justified by Ankara in the continued blockade of the northern party of the island.
It was the liberalisation of the economy which perhaps comprised Erdogan's greatest success. Indeed when the AKP took power in November 2002 Turkey was in the midst of a serious economic crisis. The GDP was clearly declining by 8.5%, inflation lay at 68.5% and public and private debt reached nearly 210 million euros, i.e. 104% of the GDP. Five years later GDP growth lies at 6.1% (2006), revenue per capita reached 5,477$ (it lay at 2,598 $ in 2002), debt has melted away, exports have increased significantly (94 billion $ in 2006), inflation stood at 8.6% over the last twelve months. Finally, foreign investments reached 19.8 billion $ in 2006. Unemployment remains high (10.4% of the working population) and one quarter of all Turks live below the poverty line.
The Grand National Assembly that resulted after the election on 22nd July last will have as its first task the election of the successor to Ahmet Necdet Sezer as President of the Republic. The AKP alone does not hold 2/3 of the seats in Parliament – these are necessary for the election of the Head of State – and therefore it will be obliged to form an alliance with other MPs to succeed in pushing through its candidate.
The future government will also have to put an end to the repeated attacks undertaken by the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) who have caused dozens of deaths and injuries, including many soldiers, in the south east of the country,. "Our democracy will emerge strengthened from this election. We are the fiercest defenders of a democratic, secular, social State governed by law. I am calling on all leaders not close their doors. Come to the negotiating table and discuss the problems of Turkish democracy and let us impose a State of Law," declared Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after having voted in his constituency.
The new MPs will be sworn in at the beginning of August five days after the announcement of the official results of the general elections; the new government will be formed 45 days later.
Turkey, which five years ago was the laboratory of an unprecedented political experiment, has therefore chosen to continue the road bringing democracy and Islam together. These general elections herald perhaps the end of the secular model imposed over a century ago by the country's armed forces even though the Turkish model in the 21st century, whose path for many must pass via Europe, mostly still remains to be defined.
General Elections Results on 22nd July 2007 in Turkey
Participation rate: 81.30% (it is obligatory to vote in Turkey)
Source : BBC Internet Site