Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once more managed to fight through to victory. With a landslide in Sunday’s elections, he now impose his will more resolutely than ever before, making certain that the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) extends its writ over the country another four years. He gambled, crossed many lines, and won. He has now the half of the national vote on his side to argue for legitimacy and perhaps even as carte blanche to extend his rule into autocracy. This was a result that a very few had predicted. Most pollsters had tipped the AKP gaining around 44% of the vote, short of being able to form a government on its own. So for the AKP to come away with the scale of the victory it was a shock. The other conundrum was whether the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy party (HDP) would fall below the critical 10% threshold (to enter parliament). It managed to score above that the relief of many who had been concerned that the Kurdish movement out of parliament would destabilise Turkey further.
How to explain AKP’s victory? The AKP invested intensely in portraying itself as the main political force waging war against what many see as the Turkey’s number one enemy: the pro-Kurdish PKK.
Erdoğan played on the sharp divisions between the three opposition parties, all entrenched in identity politics. He skillfully steered talks aiming to build a coalition after June’s parliamentary election into a dead end, while also declaring war on the PKK. Supporters of the ultra-nationalist MHP, whose leader Devlet Bahçeli was declared as “Mr No” because of his rejection of any offer of a coalition, turned to the AKP, losing the party six percentage points in support.