Erdoğan’s Second Chance

ISTANBUL – The outcome of Turkey’s latest general election – voters have gone to the polls twice in the last five months – reveals important insights into the nature of the country’s democracy and the preferences of its citizens.

The first of Turkey’s two parliamentary elections this year, in June, was widely viewed as a referendum on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s efforts to strengthen the powers of his office. The result was clear. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) received just 41% of the vote, costing it the majority it had enjoyed since coming to power in 2002.

On November 1, however, after negotiations following the June elections resulted in a hung parliament, Turks voted again, and the outcome could not have been more different. This time, the election was predominantly perceived as a referendum on the continuation of single-party rule, and the AKP won 49% of the vote, providing it with a comfortable majority.

In the run-up to the latest election, Erdoğan and the AKP emphasized the importance of the party’s parliamentary majority for Turkey’s political stability. The opposition countered with the argument that a coalition government would counter the country’s deep political polarization, while helping to establish stronger checks and balances. The promise of stability proved to be the more resonant message.