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June 9, 2015

Turkey election results seen as victory for democracy


The future of Turkey’s government is uncertain after the ruling party lost its majority in Parliament in this week’s elections.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been at the lead of the conservative AK Party for over ten years, first as prime minister of Turkey and then president. The AK Party gained power in the Turkish Parliament in 2002.

Since then, the party has become increasingly authoritarian and has alienated many liberal voters, according to Middle East Institute Center for Turkish Studies Gonul Tol. Erdogan had cracked down on opposition and sought a rewrite of the Turkish Constitution that would give more power to his position.

The election was marked by high participation: turnout was 86 percent. Very different groups, including ethnic Kurds, secular Turks and liberals joined together

“This was a huge affirmation of Turkish democracy…it was a moment which Turks really took their democracy and pushed it forward,” commented David Igantius, foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post.

Now, several parties will attempt to form a coalition government. If they fail to do so, Erdogan could call for another election, which would bring instability to Turkey, Tol said.

Turkey’s proximity to Iraq and Syria, two volatile countries in the midst of war, means it is important for the government to remain stable, Ignatius said.

“It’s a wonderful moment for Turkish democracy,” Ignatius said. “The only worry is, it’s also a period of uncertainty about the future, and then that concerns people.”

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Turkey?
  2. What is a coalition government?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why is it considered a defeat for President Erdogan’s party if they still received a majority of the votes?
  2. How does Turkey’s election outcome reflect upon the leadership of Erdogan?
  3. What are the advantages of a coalition government? What are the disadvantages?
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