Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 5, May 2015.
By George Dyson
Single digit differences in the percentage of votes attained by parties in Turkey’s upcoming general election could lead to radically different outcomes, all of which hold consequences for the health of the ongoing peace process (the “resolution process”) between the Turkish state and Kurdish armed groups in the country’s restive south east. If political groups close to the Kurdish movements find themselves frustrated at the ballot box, unable to cross Turkey’s high threshold that keeps smaller parties out of the mainstream, there is a chance of an increase in violence, even moves towards secession. Similarly, the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party), if it does not do sufficiently well at the next elections, may find it hard to push through with the resolution process. However, there are other potential outcomes that would not degrade the resolution process. Turkey’s south east regions with large Kurdish populations hold great economic potential, with hydrocarbon reserves, a mobile population and proximity to an opening Iran and a flourishing Northern Iraq. A collapse of the resolution process and an increase in the conflict could seriously prejudice this potential and lead to greater instability across Turkey. Continued cooperation could help bring greater stability to the wider region.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, is seeking to change the constitution to endow the presidential position with more powers, despite apparent divisions within his party over the issue. While, as president, Erdoğan is technically no longer a member of his party and is not running in the coming election, he is campaigning feverishly against the opposition. His party, the incumbent AKP, has been in power now for three terms and has seen its share of the vote rise and fall. But, while always maintaining enough seats to form a government, it has seen its number of seats consistently fall. Current polls suggest AKP will not have the backing it needs to change the constitution. Many polls suggest that the AKP share of the vote may fall by at least 5-6% (compared to its 2011 election result, where AKP took 49.8% of the vote) at the coming elections, but that they will still be the largest party. However, if they lose much more than this, they may even be unable to form a government.