WEB DESK: Contrary to many opinion polls and predictions by pundits, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has won a comfortable majority in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
In last June’s polls the AKP had faced first setback of its 13-year rule, when it could not win enough seats to form government on its own and also failed to find a coalition partner.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, HDP, which received enough votes then to enter parliament for the first time, now has not fared as well. Still, it has managed to return to Parliament. With the voter turnout as high as 85 percent the AKP’s performance matches its best results. Clearly, the people still have confidence in AKP founder and current President Erdogan’s ability to deliver on issues of concern to them. In fact, the outcome is seen as personal victory for the President.
There is something to be satisfied about for his opponents too who have been worried about his plans to change the constitution to expand his power by concentrating executive power in the president’s office with fewer checks and balances. The AKP is short of 14 seats needed to call a referendum, and 60 seats less than required to make the change without referendum.
While the AKP has much reason to celebrate its surprise victory, it faces myriad new challenges. The opposition is increasingly wary of the strong-arm methods employed by the government to curb media freedom through such blatant means as raids against opposition television stations and jailing of journalists. The economy is not doing well.
Extremist violence is spilling over from across the Syrian border. During the recent months, many lives have been lost in a string of terrorist attacks. Last month, in the bloodiest attack ever in the country, twin suicide bombing on a HDP peace rally left 128 people dead and scores of others injured.
The peace initiative President Erdogan initiated a while ago to end 30-year long Kurd insurgency lies in tatters with fresh outbreak of hostilities between the government and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Turkish air force has been targeting the PKK, which is fighting the IS in the neighbouring Syria and Iraq. Syrian refugees are flooding into Turkey en route to Europe.
At a time like this, it is in the interest of all, including the government, to avoid fuelling tensions that could cause further violence and political instability.
Now that the election is out of the way and the ruling party has won the support it needed to form a new government on its own, hopefully it will try and reduce political polarisation. The return of the pro-Kurdish HDP to parliament shows many people favour resumption of peace talks with the PKK.
Tolerance of media opinion and reopening of talks with Kurd rebels will lend the government the strength it needs to confront new challenges and attain economic stability.