Months of political uncertainty, blood letting and infighting are set to strike Turkey after no party achieved a single majority in national elections amid a national backlash against the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
As parties geared up for a period of intense negotiations to secure a coalition government, there was one normally ubiquitous figure absent. Mr Erdogan had failed to appear with the same frequency he had in the days leading up to the election which centred on his bid to reform Turkey’s constitution and extend his presidency. Should Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) fail to secure a coalition partner, fresh elections could be held as early as August.
On Sunday, voters resoundingly rejected Mr Erdogan’s ambitions at the polls and, in a historic inclusion for Kurds, welcomed the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) into parliament. There were triumphant scenes in Kurdish regions, and many Kurds hoped for restarted peace talks. In a major political gamble, Mr Erdogan launched a peace process with jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in 2012 to end a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people.
Kurds have accused Mr Erdogan of backtracking on the peace process, which has been on hold for months. “When Kurdish people grasped that he is no longer true to his word, they gave him an answer in the ballot box,” said retired publisher Alaattin Usta, 54.
One of the new cohort of MPs is Seher Akcinar, a Kurdish native of Erzurum in central eastern Turkey who faced violent anti-HDP protests in the days leading to the election that left hundreds injured. The 33-year-old told The Independent: “This has been a revolution in Erzurum. I’m Kurdish, I wear a headscarf and I am a woman, so I will fight for all of these issues when I get to parliament.”
The vote has left AKP officials stunned. For the first time in 13 years, the conservative Islamist-leaning party does not have a majority in parliament. Mr Erdogan has maintained de-facto control of the party and government despite becoming the ceremonial head of state.
While it received the most votes, the AKP is set to enter a period of self-examination. And the future of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has also been thrown into doubt. Mr Davutoglu said he would resign if his party was not able to form a single ruling block. It is considered unlikely he will leave prior to the party’s conference in November.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's most controversial quotes
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's most controversial quotes
1/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Just a week before he was elected President, he called Erdogan Amberin Zaman, the Turkey correspondent for 'The Economist', a "shameless militant woman disguised under the name of a journalist" after she had asked an opposition leader whether "Muslim society is able to question" the authorities. "Know your place," Erdoğan said. "They gave you a pen and you are writing a column in a newspaper. "And then they invite you to a TV channel owned by Doğan media group and you insult at a society of 99 per cent Muslims," he said he said according to Today's Zaman newspaper.
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2/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Turkish people are pictured chanting slogans during an anti-government protest on Taksim square in Istanbul, on 29 June, 2013. The protests were sparked by brutal police action against a local conservation battle to save Istanbul's Gezi Park, and soon turned into nationwide demonstrations against the government. Amid the protests - the worst in Turkey for years - Erdogan accused demonstrators of being "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to Reuters. "This is a protest organized by extremist elements. We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism," he said.
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3/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
During last year’s protests, activists used social media to organise and disseminate information. Several dozen tweeters were arrested following the protests, according to local media reports. Erdogan responded by calling the technology a "menace". "There is now a menace which is called Twitter," Erdogan said. "The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society," BBC New reported.
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4/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Not helping to allay accusations of authoritarianism, after Turkish police detained 49 people, including well-known business people and those close to the ruling party, Erdeogan ominously told reporter that Turkey "is not a banana republic" that can be affected by unnamed "operations", according to Today's Zaman newspaper. “People who are backed by the media and certain funders cannot change this country," he said. "People backed by certain dark gangs both inside and outside Turkey cannot mess with the country's path. They cannot change conditions in Turkey. Turkey is not a country that anyone can launch an operation into. The [Turkish] nation will not allow that. The AK Party, which is governing this nation, will not allow this."
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5/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Friends and relatives of the miners who died in an explosion at the Soma mine are pictured praying following the burial in Soma cemetery of the last body to be recovered from the mine in May 2014. At the time, the then-Prime Minister badly misjudged the Soma mining disaster, in which 301 workers died. He told the relatives of dead and dying miners that "these types of incidents are ordinary things", following allegations that the government had ignored safety concerns about the privately owned mine, the Guardian reported. In his defence, Erdogan recounted in a separate speech a list of mining disasters which occurred abroad, including a British disaster in 1862, and one in America "which has every kind of technology".
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6/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Palestinians pictured attending Friday noon prayers in a destroyed mosque that was hit by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City. As Prime Minister, Erdogan has condemned Israel, accusing it of deliberately killing Palestinian mothers and warned that the it would "drown in the blood it sheds." Speaking to thousands of supporters during a rally in Istanbul ahead of the 10 August election, Reuters reported him as saying: "Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target." "They kill women so that they will not give birth to Palestinians; they kill babies so that they won't grow up; they kill men so they can't defend their country ... They will drown in the blood they shed," he said.
7/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Amid the worst protests in Turkey for years which had spread across dozens of cities last June, Erdogan accused demonstrators of being "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to Reuters. A demonstration to halt construction in a park in an Istanbul square grew into mass protests against a heavy-handed police crackdown and what opponents called Erdogan's authoritarian policies. "This is a protest organized by extremist elements," Erdogan said before departing on a trip to North Africa. "We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism," he said.
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images
8/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
In March 2014, Erdogan accused a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries sustained in last year's anti-government protests of being linked to terrorism. Berkin Elvan, who became a symbol of anti-government protests, had gone to pick up bread when he was hit with a teargas canister - sending him into a nine-month coma before he passed away. In a speech broadcast on state TV, Erdogan said of Berkin: "This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terror organisations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas. “How could the police determine how old that person was who had a scarf on his face and was hurling steel marbles with a slingshot in his hand?”
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“While Erdogan could make lemons into lemonade, Davutoglu struggles,” said Aaron Stein, a Turkey analyst and associate fellow at the Royal United Security Institute (Rusi). He believes new elections will be called within six months. The party most likely to form a coalition with the AKP is the nationalist MHP, which won 80 seats. Both are seeking a change to the constitution, although MHP Chairman Devlet Bahceli has ruled out any extensions to the presidency — a key campaigning pledge of President Erdogan.
Both the HDP and Turkey’s main opposition, the leftist CHP, have categorically said they will not join a coalition with AKP. President Erdogan made a written statement on his website, calling for all political parties to “show the necessary sensibility and responsibility to preserve stability and the environment of trust in the country”.
“I believe that the current situation, which did not permit any party to form a government on its own, will be evaluated healthily and realistically by all parties that have taken part in the race,” he said.
Mr Erdogan is expected to accept the government that is presented to him within 45 days of the final announcement of the election results. The instability has made an impact on the economy as the Lira dropped to a near record low.
At the HDP’s headquarters in Istanbul, party co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag held a press conference frequently interrupted by celebratory chanting. Hundreds gathered in the street below waiting for their appearance as they waved flags and embraced each other.
Voters elected a record number of women, who now number 96 out of 550 MPs. And there were other firsts as Armenians, a Roma candidate, a Yazidi, four Christians and the niece of Mr Ocalan made it to parliament. The results have been widely hailed as not only a victory for the nation’s Kurds and liberal Turks but for women and democracy.
It has also stood clearly against the growing autocracy of President Erdogan. “Those who support freedom, democracy and peace won this election. Those who consider themselves the sole owners of Turkey lost,” said Mr Demirtas. “This victory is the collective victory of those who want a democratic civilian constitution… This victory is the victory of those who want peace in the Kurdish Question,” he added.
Aziz Duran, 28, was selling traditional simit bread in the south-eastern Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. “For years we have been treated as less than flies – the state has always insulted us,” he told Reuters. “Now we have 80 representatives.”Reuse content