Turkey Election 2011

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AKP supporters rally in Istanbul ahead of the June 12 vote. [EPA]

As Turkey goes to the polls on June 12, 2011, in elections with crucial consequences for the country, Al Jazeera brings you the latest developments, campaign trail colour, analysis and reaction.

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Erdogan's ruling AK Party was set to win Sunday's parliamentary election with 50.2 per cent of the vote, but looked unlikely to get enough seats to call a referendum on a planned new constitution.

Al Jazeera's senior political analyst examines the consequences of Turkey's parliamentary elections as Recep Tayyip Erdogan is elected to a third term as prime minister.

What is the significance of this result?

This election was a referendum on two main issues. One was on the performance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), notably on the economic performance of the AKP over the last four years.

Secondly, it was a referendum over the sweeping constitutional changes that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had asked the people to enable him to make, or at least to pass through parliament in order for them to make in a referendum.

Clearly the Turkish people have given him an extra few points to underline their satisfaction with the economic situation, and the progress Turkey has made over the last decade.

But they didn’t give him a two-thirds majority, or enough votes in parliament to enable him to present his idea of a new Turkey, through major changes to the constitution that touched the judiciary, the army, as well as the oppression of minorities, and so forth.

So I think the AKP has something to celebrate, in terms of a third mandate, but not enough to celebrate the possibility of changing the face of Turkey for years to come.Where does Erdogan take the country from here?What he will do now is consolidate his own party’s powerbase. He will underline the party's pragmatism and its commitment to the diversity of the new Turkish state.

We will also see him enact his mega-national plans, whether it is opening a new tunnel under the Bosphorus, new industrial cities and so forth. So I think there are serious structural and strategic national projects that he will be able to enact in his new term.

That will allow him to solidify his last 10 years of achievement, and take Turkey to a new level where it will not only be a regional player, but also, as the 17th economic power in the world, an increasingly important player on the world stage.What are the implications of this election for the wider region?Whatever Arab policy the AKP has had over the past decade - including the so-called "zero problems with neighbours" policy, and especially the state-to-state relations that included normalising relations with Arab dicators - clearly the Arab awakening has put a wrench into all of that, and put a stop to the normalisation of Turkey’s relations with its southern neighbours.The Arabs have seen Turkey move swiftly on asking Hosni Mubarak to step down in Egypt, but also react with serious hesitation when it came to the bloody policies of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.It was clear that Turkey had put its interests above its declared principles.

It disappointed many in the Arab world, in that it did not act swiftly and categorically to condemn the Libyan and Syrian leaders, and ask them to step down.Now, in the last few days, we have witnessed Erdogan taking a far more principled stand - perhaps a bit late, but late is better than never. But clearly it is not enough for Turkey to turn over a new page with the Arab world.I spoke with foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu extensively this week about Turkey’s relations with the Arab world.

I think we should expect that Turkey will make a major foreign policy stand or statement that will underline and clarify future Turkish policy with its neighbours, and make it clear that it stands with change and will not stand with those who are indifferent to, or resistant to, change in the Arab region.

AK Party wins by landslide, fails to secure majority for new constitution

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) won Sunday's general elections in a sweeping victory as expected, but according to initial calculations the number of deputy seats it has won in Parliament will not be enough for it to adopt a new constitution.

The AK Party won 49.9 percent of the vote, up 4 percent from the last elections, but this translates into 326 seats in Parliament, meaning it will be more than 40 seats short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the country's constitution unilaterally and about four seats short of the 330 seats needed to refer a Constitutional reform to a public vote.

According to results from 99.8 percent of the total vote, the AK Party won 49.9 percent of the vote, up by 4 percent from the previous elections, followed by the Republican People's Party (CHP) with 25.9 percent, up by 5 percent from the previous election, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with 13 percent of the vote.

According to this vote distribution, the AK Party won 326 seats, the CHP won 135 seats and the MHP, which was expected by some pollsters to drop out of Parliament, falling below Turkey's 10 percent vote threshold, had 53 seats.

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), a Kurdish party accused by officials of links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), fielded independent candidates in order to work around requirements for the 10 percent vote threshold. The independents in total won about 6.6 percent of the vote, as expected. Most of them are BDP endorsed independents who will join the BDP and form a parliamentary group, the quorum for which is 20 deputies. The BDP independents won 36 seats in total.

The drafting of a new Constitution was one of the most important themes in this election, with every political party promising a new and more democratic constitution to replace Turkey's current one, which was drafted and adopted shortly after the devastating 1980 coup d'état.

Fifteen parties and 200 independent candidates contested 550 seats for four-year terms in Parliament in Sunday's election. Voter turnout was around 87 percent. Surveys in past weeks have correctly indicated that the AK Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was headed for another win.

About 50 million Turks, or two-thirds of the population, were eligible to vote. The last polls closed at 5 p.m. in western Turkey. Reporting results online started at around 6:30 p.m. Some television stations started about 10 minutes earlier.

For the first time, voters cast ballots in transparent plastic boxes in which the yellow envelopes could be seen piling up. The measure was designed to prevent any allegations of fraud. In past elections, wooden boxes were used. “We have spoken, and now it is time for the people to speak,” Erdoğan said in İstanbul as he cast his vote. “For us, this will be the most honorable decision and one that we will have to respect. As far as I know, the election process is continuing through the country without any problems.” A group of supporters greeted his arrival at a polling station by shouting, “Turkey is proud of you.”

Erdoğan has promised that the new constitution would include “basic rights and freedoms,” replacing the 1982 Constitution implemented under the tutelage of the military after the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’état. However, he has provided relatively few details on a possible new draft. AK Party politicians describe themselves as moderates and “conservative democrats” who are committed to the ideals of Western-style democracy.

After winning the elections in 2002, they implemented economic reforms that pulled the country out of crisis. The growth rate last year was nearly 9 percent, the second highest among G-20 nations after China. Still, political reforms faltered in the ruling party’s second term. Turkey’s bid to join the European Union has stalled, partly because of opposition in key EU nations such as Germany and France.

Critics point to concerns about press freedom and the Turkish government’s plans for Internet filters as signs of intolerance toward views that don’t conform to those of Turkey’s leadership. Four people were detained Sunday in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa for allegedly voting more than once with other people’s ballot papers. In the capital of Ankara, police fired in the air and used pepper spray to break up scuffles at a polling station where a group of voters wrongly accused another group of having fake ballot papers, the Anatolia news agency said.

But for all of Turkey’s challenges, Sunday’s vote was an indicator of stability in a country that suffered fractious coalition politics and military coups in past decades. Most voting was peaceful and orderly, with large crowds gathering early to cast ballots.

“We have come to the end of a long marathon,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the opposition CHP, said after arriving at a polling station with his wife and son. “Today is the time for a decision by the people. We will respect their decision.”

Despite its successes, the AK Party government faces opposition accusations that it seeks to consolidate power at the expense of consensus-building. Much of the debate among commentators in the run-up to the elections was centered on whether the ruling party can secure a two-thirds majority in Parliament that would enable it to push through a new constitution without the support of other political groups. This didn’t happen, and Parliament is likely to see heated debate on the content of the new constitution Turkey will be drafting after the elections.

Erdoğan says nation winner of polls, vows to seek consensus on constitution

Supporters of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ...

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to embrace the entire nation after a sweeping victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections and said his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will seek a broad-based consensus of opposition parties and civil society groups while drafting a new constitution.

The AK Party won a third consecutive term by securing a record-high vote of 50 percent in Sunday's polls. The biggest opposition party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's Republican People's Party (CHP), won 25.9 percent.

“The winner of the June 12 elections is our people, whether they voted for the AK Party or not,” Erdoğan told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters celebrating the election win outside the AK Party headquarters in Ankara. “Today, Turkey won. Today, democracy and the national will won,” he said from the balcony of the AK Party headquarters, taking pride in the fact that the AK Party increased its votes by 5 million since the last elections, held in 2007, and now has the support of half the population.

Although it has seen a surge in the number of votes, the AK Party witnessed a decline in the number of seats it will have in the new Parliament. The AK Party is now expected to get 326 seats in Parliament, below the minimum number of 330 required to send any constitutional change to a referendum for approval.

“Our nation assigned us to draft the new constitution. They gave us a message to build the new constitution through consensus and negotiation," he said. “We will discuss the new constitution with opposition parties, civil society groups and academics. We will seek the broadest consensus.”

Last year, Erdoğan's government successfully pushed for changes to the current Constitution, drafted following a military coup in 1980. The AK Party has promised to draft a new constitution after the elections.

“We will draft a civilian, pro-freedoms, participatory constitution together,” Erdoğan said. “It will be the constitution of Turks, Kurds … the Roma … minorities.”

Erdoğan also attempted to ease concerns that increased support for the AK Party could worsen what critics said were “autocratic tendencies” on the part of the ruling party. The prime minister gave conciliatory messages, promising that the new government will respect and protect different ways of life and belief. “No one should have any doubt. Our people will live in peace and justice,” he said.

“Today, our responsibility has increased further. We will be more sensitive in proportion to our increased responsibility,” Erdoğan said. “We will continue to be a servant, not a master, of the people.”

The prime minister said the election results will strengthen Turkey's democracy and ambitiously declared that Turkey has reached “the level of contemporary civilizations,” a target set by Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

“Turkey has turned to a clean, brand new page,” he said. “The Turkey whose direction was drawn by gangs is now a matter of the past,” Erdoğan added, in reference to clandestine networks of military and civilian bureaucrats as well as civil society groups and criminal elements that allegedly sought to overthrow the government.


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