General elections June 2011
On 12 June general elections were held. The ruling AK party won with nearly exactly 50 percent of the votes. Turnout among Turkey’s 52 million registered voters was about 86 percent.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party won 49.9 percent of the votes, which translates to about a majority of 326 seats. However, that falls short of the “super majority” of 367 that would have enabled the party to push through constitutional changes on its own; or the target of 330 seat in parliament which the party would have needed to put its own proposals directly to a public referendum and without consulting other parties. After winning a third straight term in the parliamentary elections, re-elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to build a new constitution for the country by consensus. In a victory speech before thousands of flag-waving supporters in the capital, Ankara, Erdogan pledged “humility” and said he would work with rivals. “We are excited to gain one of every two votes in Turkey. We will discuss the new constitution with opposition parties. This new constitution will meet peace and justice demands,” Erdogan said.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) increased its vote share to 25.9 percent, winning 135 seats. That marked a boost of 5 percentage points over its performance in 2007. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu declared victory during his own brief post-election speech to supporters. “Within a short period our party won 3.5 million new votes,” he said. “We wish AKP success. But they should not forget that there is a stronger CHP now.” Turkey’s ultra-nationalists, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), also entered parliament with 13 percent of the votes and 53 seats. A big winner in the elections was the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the country’s most influential Kurdish nationalist party. Thirty-six independent candidates, representing the pro-Kurdish BDP, were elected. Furthermore, the number of female deputies in the parliament rose from 50 to 78.
Run-up to the elections
The tough 2011 election campaign was marked by tensions and accusations between political leaders and grand pledges from parties to attract voter support. Trying to secure its third term in power, the ruling Justice and Development Party began its campaign at a slower tempo compared to its top rival, the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP. The AKP focused on launching grand projects in line with its “2023 vision” for the Turkish Republic’s centennial, such as building the multibillion-dollar Istanbul Canal and establishing new cities in Istanbul and in Ankara. While fighting with the CHP over social policies on one hand, the AKP has also sought to win nationalist votes by targeting the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party. The third-biggest party and nationalist MHP was rocked by the resignations of 10 leading members over a sex video scandal. Consecutive releases of X-rated footage of prominent party figures dealt a serious blow to the MHP, however, the “tape scandal” worked in favour of the party by uniting its supporters and pushing the MHP into gearing up its campaign.
Turnout among Turkey’s 52 million registered voters was about 86 percent.
|Party/Coalition||% of votes||Seats in parliament|
|AKP- Justice and Development Party||49,91||326|
|CHP- Republican People’s Party||25,91||135|
|MHP- Nationalist Movement Party||12,99||53|
|SP- Felicity Party||1,24||0|
|HAS- People’s Voice Party||0,76||0|
|BBP- The Great Union Party||0,73||0|
|DP- Democratic Party||0,65||0|
|HEPAR- Rights and Equality Party||0,28||0|
|DSP- Democratic Left Party||0,25||0|
|Independent candidates (most of them BDP members)||6,1||36|
According to international election observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe, Turkey’s elections were well-managed, democratic and demonstrated pluralism. However, they also showed a need for improvements on fundamental freedoms and noted the country’s high threshold for parties to win representation in Parliament. The ten per cent threshold, by far the highest in Europe, remains a central issue.
Presidential elections August 2007
After the political deadlock of April and the 2007 parliamentary elections, the Turkish parliament was finally ready to elect a new president. The landslide victory for the ruling AKP of prime minister Erdogan, encouraged the party to let foreign-minister Abdullah Gül run again as their presidential candidate. The constitution prescribes that the presidential candidate needs a two-third majority (367 seats) to get elected in the first voting-round. If a second round is needed, again a two-third majority is needed. In case of a third round, the candidate only needs a simple majority (276 seats) to be elected.
Just like in April, the military warned the Turkish electorate against the former-Islamic Gül, who would endanger the secular state of Turkey. However, their call did not affect the electorate to a great extent. In fact, Abdullah Gül could count on a stable majority in parliament during the three voting-rounds. A two-third majority was, however, not possible in the first two rounds.
|Candidate||Party||1st round (20/8)||2nd round (24/8)||3rd round (28/8)|
|Hüseyin Tayfun ?çli||DSP||13||14||13|
After a total of five rounds (two in April/May and three in August) and a period of four months, Abdullah Gül finally was elected as the 11th president of Turkey. His election was welcomed by the international community, especially by the European Union. Gül declared that he was dedicated to negotiate with the EU about possible future-membership of Turkey. Internally, Gül declared immediately after his inauguration that would respect the secular state of Turkey.
Republican People’s Party (CHP)
Leader – Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
Social Democratic Party, Member of the Socialist International and the largest Social Democratic Party in Turkey. The party could be called the heir of Kemalism, loyal to the principles of Atatürk. It grew directly from the first political party in Turkey that bore the same name and was created by Atatürk in 1923. Despite their social democratic name the party has a rather conservative, rightist outlook on political issues.
In the last decade leading up to the 21st century, the CHP only became a strong centre-left party after its fusion with the then main left-wing party SHP in February 1995. However, following the general elections of April 1999, CHP - which obtained only 8.7% of the votes, disappeared entirely from parliament for the first time in its history. Many blamed the CHP for not being left wing enough. Baykal was seen as responsible for this defeat and he resigned. During the last elections in 2002, Baykal re-gained his seat and was able to get 19.39% of the votes for the CHP. The party became the second biggest party in Turkey and the main opposition party in the Assembly. In the 2002 elections, the party gained 177 representatives in parliament.
During the CHP party congress in January 2005 it became clear that within the party large disunity exists. Baykal and his supporters got into a physical fight with their opponents inside the party, and verbally attacked one another during discussions. Baykal got eventually re-elected as party leader, but he achieved this status at a large cost for the CHP. Since the party congress had been shown on national television the popularity of the CHP had sunk dramatically.
In the 2007 elections, the party lost tremendously. In an attempt to attract more rightwing and nationalistic voters, the party changed its focus to more rightwing issues in stead of focusing on the classic leftist issues. Shortly after the elections, analysts stated that this shift could have caused the decline in electoral support for the party, just like this was argued after the devastating elections of 1999. Analysts also pointed at the way the electorate have perceived the opposition role of the CHP. The decline in support could be explained by dissatisfaction about their role in opposition. The CHP now holds 112 seats in parliament, but a part of these seats will be occupied by candidates of the other social-democratic party in their alliance: the DSP.
In May 2010 Baykal resigned as party leader over a video scandal. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was elected new leader in September 2010 by the party congress.
Democratic Society Party (DTP)
Leader – Ahmed Türk
DTP is the only legal Kurdish Party in Turkey. It is a social-democratic party and an observer member of the Socialist International. The party was found in on 17 August 2005 as merger of the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP) and the new Democratic Society Movement (DTH), founded by the end of 2004. Initially, the DTP tried to be the first Turkish party to have collective leadership. After finding out that this form of party leadership was illegal, Ahmed Türk became the only party leader. During the 2004 elections, DTP had not yet been erected, so DEHAP competed for the last time as independent party.
DEHAP was established as HADEP in 1994 to replace the Party for Democracy (DeP), which was dissolved. HADEP took part in the 1995 elections and won 4.2 % of the vote. Prevented by the 10% threshold system to enter the parliament, it gave most of its votes to the RP (see below) so as not to waste them. HADEP was the only legal party allowed to represent Kurdish interests (unlike the outlawed PKK). The party took part in the April 1999 municipal and general elections. Once again, HADEP failed to reach at the national level the 10% threshold for seats in the Assembly but won massively in some cities in the southeastern region of Turkey. After these elections the party was banned by the Constitutional Court and renamed as DEHAP.
At last parliamentary elections in 2002, DEHAP combined forces with four minor leftist parties, namely the Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP), the Party for Freedom and Solidarity (ÖDP), the Free Party (ÖP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The alliance entered the race under the name SHP. At last parliamentary elections in 1999, these five parties received 8 percent of the votes together. In 2002, when they had officially formed a coalition together they received only five percent of the votes. The generally accepted explanation for this is that the electorate of DEHAP punished their party for collaborating with the SHP, a party notorious for their anti-Kurdish standpoints. DEHAP on the other hand views the coalition as a big step forward in becoming a legitimate party on the Turkish political stage.
During the elections they received only 6.22% of the votes and couldn't get into parliament. In 2004 they teamed up with the SHP as to show Turkish Kurdish unity. “We, with the declaration of our unity with SHP, one more time proved that DEHAP is not making ethnic politics”, the party stated. Together the SHP and DEHAP got 6.2 % of the votes.
For the 2007 elections, the DTP had an alliance with the independent candidates for parliament. This increased the number of independent candidates in parliament, of which there are also DTP-candidates. At the time of writing it is unclear how much DTP-candidates are among the “independent” candidates.
Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP)
Leader – Murat Karayacin
The Sosyal Demokrat Halkçi Parti (SHP) was created in 1985, and was one of the several parties formed since 1983 that had presented itself as an heir to the CHP.
The decision to join the DYP (see below) in a coalition government brought the internal divisions within the SHP to the forefront. Civil rights activists, both Turkish and Kurdish, opposed the SHP's participation in the government because they associated Demirel with government abuses of human rights during the late 1970s and doubted his willingness to terminate martial law in the Kurdish provinces. Consequently eighteen SHP deputies resigned from the party in 1990 and, led by Ahmet Türk, established the People's Labor Party (Halkin Emek Partisi - HEP) as a separate group in the National Assembly, which would later grow out to become DEHAP. Because the HEP emphasized civil rights issues its primary appeal was among Kurds. A majority of the party's executives were Kurdish.
Many Turkish leaders, both civilian and military, tended not to distinguish between the HEP, which was committed to working for civil rights within the political process, and the PKK, which aimed to overthrow the political system through armed struggle. When the military initiated proceedings against HEP founders in 1992 for allegedly promoting "separatist propaganda," the HEP deputies accused the SHP of not actively protecting them from official persecution. This affected the public opinion of the SHP negatively, since their cooperation with HEP had supplied them with a progressive, popular image. Consequently the SHP did very poorly in the 1994 municipal council elections--virtually all SHP incumbents in the cities and towns of south-eastern Turkey lost. Gradually the SHP lost its status of third biggest party in Turkey, to become a marginal un-influential leftist party, which needed the support of DEHAP in the local elections of 2004.
In the 2007 elections, the SHP has an alliance with the CHP, the biggest social-democratic party in the country. Together both parties gained 112 in parliament, a great loss compared to the elections of 2002. It could be stated that the leftist vote was the great loser of the 2007 elections.
Justice and Development Party (AKP)
Leader - Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The AKP is the governing party in Turkey, which is mostly characterized as Islamic and neo-liberal reformist. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) claimed victory in the November 3 elections, paving the way for Turkey’s first single-party government to assume power in more than a decade. The party is very popular among a large part of the population in Turkey, which consists mainly of “urbanised” peasants. This group contains about 35 million people, which are no longer poor but not rich yet, an in-between group looking for power, money and identity. These people are keen on the rhetoric of AKP, because it oscillates between conservatism, fundamentalism and progress.
The AKP was founded in 2001 by Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gül as a splinter party from the Islamic Felicity Party. The AKP surprised all other political parties in Turkey by gradually gaining more votes in each local and general election. They shed their staunchest Islamic viewpoints from their Milli Görü? (see below) period and focussed on cooperation with the EU. In 2002 they became the largest party in parliament, with Abdullah Gül as premier, quickly followed up by Tayyip Erdogan after his political ban was lifted. The AKP claims to be a pro-Western mainstream party with a "conservative" social agenda but also a firm commitment to liberal market economy and European Union membership.
In the 2007 elections, the AKP was the big winner, gaining 340 seats in parliament. The AKP was rewarded for the economic prosperity of Turkey and the overall performance of the Turkish government. It is clear that the AKP has received a great mandate from the Turkish electorate to continue their policies, including the accession-talks with the European Union.
Felicity Party (SP)
Leader – Necmettin Erbakan
Conservative and Islamic, this party has changed names several times, because it repeatedly got banned from the political sphere by secular courts for being too religiously motivated. The party was eradicated in 1970 as the National Order Party (MNP) and was reincarnated in 1973 it as the National Salvation Party (MSP), which expressed its ideas in the Milli Görü? (National Vision). In 1983 the party was re-eradicated as the Welfare Party (RP). This party lasted a relatively long time until the government coalition headed by Mr. Erbakan fell apart in 1997 under pressure of the military. The Constitutional Court banned the party in January 1998. Again the party was immediately recreated, this time as the Virtue Party (FP). When the FP was also banned in 2001, Erbekan formed yet another reincarnation, the Felicity Party (SP), but this time the aging politician faced a revolt against his leadership within his own party by a modernist faction of younger Islamic activists, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gül.
This "new guard" in the SP had long pushed for a more democratic, decentralized, and transparent party structure. They also objected to Erbakan's anti-Western policies, but encountered stiff opposition on all fronts from Erbakan and his cohorts. While the old guard talked about international Muslim solidarity, Erdogan and his allies were enthusiastic about accelerating Turkey's economic integration with the West. Following Erbakan's political humiliation in the 1999 parliamentary elections when the RP placed itself third behind the Democratic Left Party (DSP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), the reformers broke away and formed the AKP.
The SP is now a marginal party in Turkish politics. In the 2007 elections the party won only 2,34 percent of the votes. The party did not enter parliament.
Motherland Party (ANAP)
Leader – Erkan Mumcu
Founded in 1983 by Turgut Ozal, ANAP is positioned at the centre right of the political spectrum. The party governed Turkey from 1983 to 1991, formed a brief governmental coalition with the DYP in 1995 and then came back to power on its own in July 1997. It stayed on to November 1998 with Mesut Yilmaz as party leader. As a government party the ANAP transformed the Turkish economy in the eighties, introducing free-market reforms and downsizing the public sector. The governments of the ANAP also applied formally to join the EEC (European Economic Community, today's EU) in 1987. After they had been voted into opposition, the ANAP became a strong criticizer of the Customs Union with the EU.
In the April 1999 elections, ANAP was one of the big losers. The party became the fourth largest Turkish party with 14% of the votes. During the elections in 2002, they did not reach the parliament threshold. In 2007, the party tried to merge with the Democratic Party, but both parties failed to reach an agreement. ANAP then decided not to compete in the 2007 parliamentary elections.
True Path Party (DYP)
Leader - Mehmet Agar
Founded in 1983 by Suleyman Demirel (although banned from the elections after the coup of 1980 until 1987), the DYP is conservative and draws strong support from the countryside. Despite the fact that its political and economic program is almost identical to ANAP’s, the two parties prefer competition for power to cooperation to form strong coalitions. As a result, this division of the right facilitated the RP’s rise to power in 1995.
In the 1991 general elections, the DYP obtained a narrow majority of votes and formed a coalition government with the centre left party SHP. In 1993, Demirel succeeded ?zals President of Turkey and was replaced as head of the party and by Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, the first woman in Turkey to reach prime minister ship.
Economic reforms became the cornerstone of the DYP’s policy under her leadership. Membership of NATO and other strategic alliances as well as the application to join the EU were enthusiastically maintained and the Customs Union with the EU agreed on. After the April 1999 elections, DYP became the fifth party in Turkey, with 12% of the votes. During the last elections in 2002, they got only 9.55% of the votes. Thanks to some politicians who at the last instant resigned from their political parties and joined DYP, today the party is represented in the Turkish Assembly with 4 members.
Youth Party (GP)
Leader - Cem Uzan
The Youth Party is a populist party, founded by a young businessman Cem Uzan in 2002. Uzan is a member of a family of bankers and media patrons who ran into trouble internationally for unusual economic deals. He started an extremely expensive election campaign, with free concerts and banquets all over the country that were followed by nationalist-populist speeches. The election polls showed him as the 'likeliest third' to cross over the threshold and his speeches were all over his TV and radio stations. During the last elections in November 2002, they miraculously got 7.24% of the votes in only 3 months of political life, but still couldn't go to the parliament because of 10% threshold for seats in the Assembly. In the 2007 elections, the Youth Party gained 3,03 percent of the votes, losing more than half of their share of votes. Again, the party did not make it into parliament.
The Democratic Left Party (DSP)
Leader – Zeki Sezer
The DSP was founded in 1985 by Rahsan Ecevit, wife of Bülent Ecevit (he had been banned from political life after the military coup of 1980). In 1987 the party leadership was taken over by Bülent Ecevit. This centre-left party was a minority party until it won 76 parliamentary seats in the December 1995 general elections. The DSP approves of Turkish membership in NATO and adhesion to the European Union although it criticized the content of the Customs Union. The DSP got a popularity boost when Abdullah Öcalan was captured during a period in which Ecevit was prime minister. The party won 22% of the votes in the general elections of April 1999 and took 136, in the 550-member Turkish Parliament. Bülent Ecevit became prime minister for the fifth time in a row. During the last elections in 2002, they received only 1.21% of the votes and couldn't get into the parliament. Ecevit resigned from politics and the new party leader became Zeki Sezer. In 2007 the party formed an alliance with the CHP, winning 20,85 percent of the votes. Out of the total of 112 seats, the DSP won 13 seats.
Nationalist Action Party (MHP)
Leader – Devlet Bahceli
Part of this party is on the far right of the political spectrum and call themselves ultra-nationalist. They are known as the Grey Wolves, the name of the MHP youth movement.
The MHP was founded in 1969 by Alparslan Türkes. Structured as a typically paramilitary organization, MHP was largely responsible for the escalation of violence in the late seventies. The party was dissolved after the 1980 military coup while Türkes and others were accused in the early 80’s of the murder of several public figures. In 1995, Türkes was again allowed to reconstitute the MHP and to take part in the elections, which earned the party 8.5% of the vote. The party leaders funeral in April 1997 drew 300.000 people including politicians of all parties. Türkes was succeeded by Dr. Devlet Bahçeli, in spite by strong opposition inside the party led by Tugrul Türkes, son of the party's founder.
MHP became the second Turkish political party after the April 1999 general elections and got 129 seats in the Assembly. It's new leader Bahçeli is drawing a different profile than earlier leaders in the sense that he is willing to cooperate with the EU, and with other political parties. He claims there are only a couple of issues (like the Kurdish status and the death-penalty which he was in favour of) on which the party will not be able to negotiate. During the last elections in 2007, the MHP became (together with the AKP) the big winner and won 14.29% of the votes (71 seats). In the discussion of the results we already have discussed possible explanations for their great win.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister of Turkey
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was born on 26 February 1954 in Rize, a small city on the Black Sea coast. When Erdogan was 13, his family moved to Istanbul. He went to an Islamic school and studied business management at the Marmara University of Istanbul. After having finished his studies, Erdogan worked for Istanbul’s transportation authority, until he was sacked for refusing to shave his moustache, on religious grounds.
Subsequently, Erdogan entered politics. In 1994 he was elected mayor of Istanbul. At that time he was the leader of the Islamic oriented Welfare Party, which was banned from politics in January 1998 by the highest court of Turkey. This was on the grounds that the party sought to undermine Turkey’s secular basis. Erdogan got indicted on subversion charges and was sentenced to ten months in jail from March 1999. Upon his release from prison, Erdogan was one of the founders of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), in August 2001, and became its leader in 2002. That same year, the AKP won the parliamentary elections and came to power. Because of his previous conviction, Erdogan was banned from serving in any government position. Nonetheless, his party’s parliamentary majority revoked the ban by passing a constitutional amendment. Erdogan became Prime Minister in March 2003, replacing Abdullah Gul.
Since then, Erdogan has moderated his position. In the 2007 parliamentary elections, his position as Prime Minister was consolidated. He experienced an important victory in 2008 when parliament voted to repeal a ban on wearing the headscarf on private or public university campuses.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is married and has two children.
President of Turkey
Abdullah Gul was born on 29 October 1950 in Kayseri. He graduated in 1983 from the Faculty of Economics at the Istanbul University. From then on he worked as an economist at the Islamic Development Bank, until 1991. That year he became active in politics. From 1991 Gul was elected five times member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly; in 1991 and 1995 for the Islamist Welfare Party and afterwards for the AKP. He was one of the founding members of the latter, and served as vice-chairman of the party in 2001. Gul also served as a member of the Planning and Budget Parliamentary Committee, as well as the Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Committee. From 1996 to 1997 Gul was Minister of State and spokesperson for the Turkish government.
Abdullah Gul served as Prime Minister of Turkey from November 2002 until March 2003. From then on, he acted as deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, steering Turkey’s accession talks with the EU. In August 2007 he was elected President of Turkey. At first his presidential bid was blocked by secularist parties in the parliament, but when the AKP had swept the 2007 parliamentary elections, it re-nominated Gul again.
Abdullah Gul is married and has two children.
Chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP)
Kemal Kilicdaroglu was born on 17 December 1948 in Nazimiye, in the province of Tunceli. He is from Kurdish origin and also has Armenian ancestry. Kilicdaroglu was educated in economics at the Gazi University in Ankara. After having finished university in 1971, Kilicdaroglu served in the Ministry of Finance as a Deputy Accountant and later on as an Accountant. In 1983 he became Deputy Director General of the Revenues Department in the same ministry. Eight years later, in 1991, Kilicdaroglu was appointed Director-General of respectively two social security administrations.
He entered politics in 1994, but did not manage to get on the candidate list of the Democratic Left Party (DSP). However, he was invited by the leader of the CHP, Deniz Baykal, to join his party. In 2002 he was elected into parliament as a deputy from Istanbul, to be re-elected in 2007. Kilicdaroglu’s efforts to uncover corruption among the AKP carried him to headlines in the Turkish media.
Kilicdaroglu was nominated as candidate for the Mayor of Istanbul for the CHP in the 2009 local elections, gaining 37 percent of the votes. When Deniz Baykal resigned in May 2010, Kilicdaroglu was elected as the leader and breath new life into the party.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu is married and has a son and two daughters.
Former Chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP)
Deniz Baykal was born on 20 July 1938 in Antalya. He graduated from the University of Ankara at the Faculty of Law. From then on he studied at the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University, New York in the United States. He finished his PhD in 1963 in Ankara and worked as an Associate Professor at the University of Ankara.
His academic career ended in 1973, when he was elected as a member of the Turkish parliament for the CHP. Subsequently, he served as Minister of Finance, Minister of Energy, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister throughout the 1970s and 1990s. Baykal was elected General Secretary of the CHP in 1988, and became party leader in 1992. He held this post until May 2010, when he resigned over a videotape scandal.
Deniz Baykal is married and has two children.
Wikipedia: Politics of Turkey
CIA World Factbook: Turkey
EurActiv.com: EU-Turkey relations
Turkish Daiy News
IFES Election Calendar
TheEconomist.comHuman Rights Watch: country report on Turkey
Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict: the Turkey's Kurdish QuestionMy Country and NATO: Turkey
Geoinvestor.com: Turkey's Economy