The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s dreams of more power lay in tatters as the country’s ruling party was handed its worst result in more than a decade.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been in a tight race to keep its hold of the country’s National Assembly, – a far cry from its stated aims of winning a sweeping victory, then changing the country’s constitution.
AKP could still find itself forced into a coalition, although a senior party official told Reuters it expected a minority government and an early election.
To win a majority, the party needed at least 276 seats in the 550-seat assembly – but with 99 per cent of the votes counted, the AKP had won 258 seats, or a little over 41 per cent of the vote.
The pro-Kurdish party, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) won 78 seats, and will enter parliament for the first time. This would mean it will become the country’s first pro-Kurdish party in the Turkish parliament, with 11.7 per cent of the vote. Since 2013, there has been a ceasefire between Turkey’s government and the Kurdish insurgency, PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
More than 40,000 people were killed during the insurgency between 1984 and 2013 but since then Kurdish rights have begun to be accepted.
Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman with Figen Yuksekdag, said the victory was one for all minorities, women, workers and the oppressed. “It is a joint victory of the Left,” he said.
The election was a momentous day for minorities in Turkey as three Armenian candidates, AKP’s Makar Esayan, HDP’s Garo Paylan and the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Selima Dogan were expected to enter parliament. They will be the country’s only Armenian parliamentarians.
In 2011 AKP received more than 49 per cent of the vote, its highest result. But if the initial results are backed by final tallies, this poll will make it the first time its domination of the Turkish political scene is no longer guaranteed. The Turkish prime minister thanked his supporters in his hometown of Konya, central Turkey.
“The nation’s decision is the best decision. Do not worry. We will never bow down to any power,” Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Mr Erdogan and the AKP had hoped it would get a two-thirds supermajority (367 seats) and change the 1982 constitution to create an executive presidential system.
Casting his vote in Istanbul earlier, Mr Erdogan acknowledged the sometimes vicious campaign had been a “challenging marathon”.
The party first swept to power in 2002 after it was founded by Mr Erdogan, the former president Abdullah Gul and others in 2001.
Before the results were announced, Etyen Mahcupyan, a former adviser to the prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said he believed the Kurdish party would pass the threshold.
“HDP will receive anti-AKP votes but the CHP will also lose votes to HDP,” he told the Telegraph.
During the campaign, there were suggestions AKP, if necessary, would form a coalition with the far-Right nationalists, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). They are the country’s third largest party and could win 83 seats.
But Oktay Vural told Reuters it was too early to make any comment on whether there would be a coalition.
“It would be wrong for me to make an assessment about a coalition, our party will assess that in the coming period. I think the AK Party will be making its own new evaluations after this outcome,” he said.
The Telegraph spoke to voters who had switched from AKP to MHP during the voting period. Durmus Ceylan, from Beyoglu in Istanbul, said he had voted MHP in the last two elections.
“I don’t like what they’re becoming,” he said as he criticised the party’s economic policy in recent years.
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According to Akin Unver, assistant professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, the numbers suggested there would be a coalition.
“There is a Mexican stand-off between CHP, MHP and HDP. If AKP annoys all three, they may keep AKP out. If there is a snap election, AKP would lose.
“A snap election is a negative thing in Turkey, whoever wants that, loses the election.”
This article originally appeared in the UK’s The Telegraph newspaper