Monday, June 13

And it happened again...

Today was an important day in Turkey. Millions of Turks left their homes to cast their votes in general elections. 

A lot of hope was vested into the ruling center- right Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in these elections, however, it failed to win or get the majority of votes. It came with a 25.92% of votes while the ruling AKP with almost twice as much. But what is more concerning is the trend of the overall percentage of votes AKP has been getting since 2002 when it came to leadership with 34%, 46% in 2007 and 49.90% in 2011 (see more details here).

AKP will maintain majority in the parliament with 326 seats, followed by CHP with 135 seats, MHP 54 seats and independents with 35 seats. AKP was targeting 330 seats which would have allowed the party to push for rewriting the constitution. The debate over changing the constitution that was introduced during the 1980 coup, rests on AKP's promise of making Turkey a more democratic country with enhanced individual freedoms vs. its opponents fearing of AKP simply consolidating its grip on power. The current Prime Minister spoke of his affection for a French- style presidential system which is what many believe AKP will strive to achieve by changing the constitution. If this happens, Erdogan will have the constitutional right to govern for additional two terms, leading the country in 2023 which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.

In his post- election address, leader of the ruling CHP party- Kemal Kilicdaroglu promised to continue working as hard as they did before, sending out a strong message of becoming a ruling party. 

According to the country's current constitution, a party must get a minimum of 10% of the national vote for it to join the country's 550- seat parliament (to read more on Turkish election system read this article by Al Jazeera).

It was disturbing to see cars drive on one of the busiest and hip streets of Istanbul, Bagdad Caddesi, with AKP flags hanging from their windows and women with headscarves smiling proudly waiving the flags from their cars tonight. It reminded me of Fenerbahce (one of the Turkey's biggest football teams) championship celebrations just few weeks ago on the same street, except this was no soccer championship. AKP's controversial rule in the country has been subject to criticisms. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Kilicdaroglu pointed out to limitations in democracy and freedoms. CHP leader referred to cases of confiscation of unprinted books, arrests and detainment of hundreds of journalist (Turkey is leading among countries with highest number of arrested journalists). Freedom of press is fragile, journalists are concerned their phones are tapped and mass case over military coup plot is in papers everyday. 

So it looks like religion won today again for a third time... 

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