Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the most formidable vote-winner and election conjurer Turkey has ever seen. He founded his own party, led it to three absolute parliamentary majorities as prime minister, then last year performed a Putinesque sidestep to become the country’s first directly elected president with more than half of the popular vote. But on Monday Erdoğan stared defeat in the face. He had forsaken his famously intuitive feel for the popular mood, miscalculated in his highly aggressive election campaign and paid the price. Even if his Justice and Development party (AKP) retained the biggest parliamentary presence with 41% of the vote, many of his longstanding supporters deserted him, concluding that he was out of touch with their lives and the mood of the country.
And in what turned into an unforeseen carnival of pluralism and liberalism, voters hoping to rein in the president turned to a new pro-Kurdish party that oozed youthful exuberance and optimism during the election campaign.
The failure of the AKP to secure a parliamentary majority, the backlash against Erdoğan and the electorate’s embrace of the leftist pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) under its charismatic young leader, Selahattin Demirtaş, represent a watershed in Turkish politics.
Erdoğan campaigned to make himself the all-powerful president of what he called “the new Turkey”. The election result brought forth an embryonic new Turkey, but not the one the president wanted.