08 June 2015

Double victory for democracy in Turkey

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has just learned a lesson in democracy. And humility. Erdogan, a popular prime minister and the country's dominant politician since his party swept to power in 2002, ran for president successfully in 2014. The Turkish presidency has limited powers but Erdogan gambled he could use his party's majority in  the Grand National Assembly to change the constitution and greatly expand his powers.

To that end he urged voters in yesterday's election to give his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a majority sufficient to change the constitution. Although the president is supposed to be politically neutral, Erdogan campaigned vigorously. His power play failed. The AKP, with only 41% of the vote, lost its majority. It will now be forced to form a coalition just to retain power and there will be no vote to change the constitution. Erdogan will still roam his new presidential palace but with little power.

Erdogan, like so many politicians, let his popularity go to his head. The Turkish people, acting through the democratic process, have put him in his place, along with his hand-picked prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, whose future is now uncertain.

A spoiler in the election was the Peoples' Democratic Party, a pro-Kurdish party. With 12% of the vote, it will have a solid bloc of seats and a significant position in the assembly. This new-found influence could contribute significantly to ending decades of insurgency by Kurdish militants. Yet another victory for democratic process.

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