Thousands of Kurds took to the streets in Turkey on Sunday night after the main pro-Kurdish party won enough votes to enter parliament for the first time.
The general election also delivered a major blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had been hoping that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would increase its share of the vote to allow it to change the constitution and hand him more power.
However, with 99 per cent of the vote counted, the AKP appeared to have lost its parliamentary majority after getting about 41 per cent of the vote, down from 49 per cent in 2011, with the main secular opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP) in second place on about 25 per cent and the nationalist MHP in third on just under 17 per cent.
These elections were the first time disparate Kurdish candidates had come together in the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) and it also made a bid for disenchanted left-leaning and secular CHP voters, as well as religious conservative Kurds who previously voted for the AKP.
The strategy appeared to have paid off with the HDP set to get 12 per cent, taking it above the 10 per cent threshold needed to get any MPs for the first time. They could now get about 80 of the 550 seats.
Jubilant Kurds flooded the streets of Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey, setting off fireworks and waving flags.
“This result shows that this country has had enough. Enough of Erdogan and his anger,” said Seyran Demir, a 47-year-old housewife who was among the thousands who gathered in the streets around the HDP’s provincial headquarters.
“I am so full of joy that I can’t speak properly.”
Sermin Ilik, 56, a retired teacher in Ankara, switched to the HDP after a lifelong commitment to the CHP.
“I think they are the most democratic party in Turkey. I really want them to pass the threshold because they will stop the AKP,” she told The Independent.
“They [the HDP] have struggled for years and it’s enough. I’ll give them my vote because I want to give them a chance to prove themselves.”
Referring to the decades-long armed conflict with the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), she added: “Once they [the HDP] have a say in parliament, they will be part of the system without their weapons.
The AKP was expected to get 258 MPs, 18 below the number needed for a majority. President Erdogan’s party had hoped to increase the number of its MPs to 367, a so-called super-majority that would have enabled it to change the constitution and create a US-style executive presidency.
It may now face having to form a coalition government, which would be the first time the party was not able to rule by a majority since it came to power in 2002.
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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Some suggested that could be with the CHP. In its stronghold Besiktas district in Istanbul, voters young and old stood by the party founded by Kemal Ataturk.
“I would prefer a coalition of the AKP and the CHP to having the HDP in government – they’re terrorists,” said 22-year-old Yasin.
For AKP voters, however, their party is the only one they think can provide stability. Many remember the days of seemingly endless coalition governments, a weak economy and political infighting.
“We need a strong leader. This government has been in power for 12 years and it keeps being successful,” Firat, 30, said from behind his counter in Istanbul’s pro-AKP neighbourhood of Tophane.Reuse content