The Change Brought by the 2015 Elections: From Elected Authoritarianism towards Democracy?
The Change Brought by the 2015 Elections:
rom Elected Authoritarianism towards Democracy?
This article illustrates voters’ preferences in four different elections in order to put emphasis on the direction and form of change −that came through the reflection of voters’ changing preferences on the country’s government between 2011 and 2015. The political tendency that is occurred as a result of the direction of change is generated in the light of interpretations. In addition this new tendency is being framed together with the last 65-year political experience. Thus, the legislative elections of 7th June 2015, are being entreated to comprehend and study not only in themselves, but also in relation to a changing pattern which they take part in.
There is a need to interpret the situation in matter of election results and distribution of votes in order to understand better –correctly– the direction and form of change. This interpretation should be done by taking into consideration whether electorate votes or not, during the last four elections between 2011 and 2015; because the comparability of the results could actually be realised only by this way. There are three reasons: First, although valid votes of voters determine the result of the elections, not voting –as much as voting according to a certain preference– during elections plays a role in the formation of valid votes and it has to be approached also as voting behaviour. Secondly, during the announcement of election results in Turkey, it is possible to see only the distribution of abroad voters’ valid votes to political parties. From the announced records, it is not possible to reach out the data of which distribution or which country they come from or what is the differentiation of those who voted and those who did not. Third, while the comparability of votes that is casted at abroad offices and at the customs are not yet provided, to make these votes part of any analysis means to make uncontrollable elements as a part of an evaluation.
The distribution of votes with reference to four elections that has been used in this article, is tabulated in the way that illustrates voting behaviour of registered voters inside the country and abroad. The term ‘do not (cannot) vote’ that appears in the tables; describes both those registered voters who did not vote as well as those who voted but their votes were declared as invalid. From the analysis’s point of view (between ‘do not vote’ and ‘cannot vote’), although it is possible to separate those who do not vote from those who cannot vote, this article did not find it necessary to make this separation.
The results of the legislative elections of 7th June 2015, have also a significant place in Turkey’s last 65-year-multi-party political history with the examples of resulting into establishment of power or locking it. Therefore, this article will attempt to tackle the implications of 1960, 1970s and the period between 1991 and 1995 through questions. This assessment will be done in order to remind and make the reader think.
Interpretation of the Current Situation
The Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP) came into power by increasing its votes in all legislative elections (2002, 2007, 2011) (except for the local elections of 2009). This increasing momentum continued until the 12th September, Constitutional Referendum with a numerical increase in its votes an increase in its votes numerically. During the 12th September 2010 Constitutional Referendum, −which is named as the ‘end of 12 September period’ (referring to the coup d’état on 12th September 1980) −’, the total number of domestic voters who voted ‘yes’ to AKP’s request reached 21,667,427 votes. Afterwards, this number decreased to 21,306,828 in 2011 and to 18,344,358 in the elections of 2015. Besides, the number of registered voters inside the country was approximately 49.5 million in 2010, whereas in 2015 this number reached 53.7 million.
In the legislative elections of 2011, the AKP took majority of votes, albeit less MPs compared to legislative elections of 2002 and 2007. The reason was that, despite 10 percent electoral threshold, Kurds and leftists were able to be elected as independent MPs from three big cities (Adana, İstanbul, and Mersin) and 14 southeastern cities. Therefore, despite the 10 percent election threshold, the proportion of votes which were not taken into account, diminished significantly compared to elections of 2002 and 2007.
Table 1. Preferences of Domestic Registered Voters in legislative elections of 2011 and 2014
Source: Yüksek Seçim Kurulu (Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey) (YSK)
In the legislative elections of 2011, independent candidates and all other oppositional political parties obtained in total 42.76 percent of votes from registered voters that is hardly equivalent to AKP votes. In that election, 14.79 percent of voters either did not vote or did cast an invalid vote. Three years afterwards, in local elections of 2014, AKP lost 12.8 percent of its former votes and its total support fell to 37%. On the other hand, opposition’s increased its total support to 47 percent.
In local elections of 2014, voters casted votes in 3 different ballot boxes at the same time. One of these ballot boxes was for province/municipality council (il/belediye meclisi) −which is directly related with political parties− and the other two were for votes for province/district (il/ilçe) and position of mayor. Consequently, if one analyses the election results by asking ‘what is the ratio of voters who vote for the AKP for either province or district/ position of mayor’ to the overall voters, it is seen that this ratio rose up from 37 percent to 39 percent. Hence, it appears that the electorate who might vote for the AKP/or its leader would be 39 percent of the registered voters.
In fact, four months ten days after the local elections of March 2014, in the first presidential elections, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as a candidate of the AKP, received 39.08 percent of votes from total registered voters and 51.65 percent of those who casted valid votes, was elected as the president at the first round of the elections. Here, there are two prominent issues. First, the fact that Erdoğan pulled 39 percent of the registered voters towards the ballot box to vote for himself. Second, the ratio of electoral turnout –while taking the valid votes into consideration−, went back to such a point that is enough to represent more than 50 percent of the votes. Therefore, in the presidential elections of 2014, the rise of 10 points in the ratio of ‘do not (cannot) vote’ compared to two previous elections (legislative elections of 2011/local elections of 2014) illustrates a significant change that cannot be underestimated. Thereby, from the two contrasts of public opinion polls, the occurrence of an achievement creates a new subject to study on as a prominent element in the research literature.
Table 2. 2014 Presidential Elections. Distribution of Votes.
Source: Yüksek Seçim Kurulu (Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey) (YSK)
Presidential elections of 2014 resulted in the election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a president through a referendum for the first time. The elections also ensured that Selahattin Demirtaş, who was the candidate of Kurds and leftists, gained recognition, trust and sympathy to a considerable extent.
In the presidential elections, Demirtaş who was the candidate of the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party) (HDP) raised his party’s votes by 70% in four months (at the local elections). Through this rise of votes, he ensured his constituency that there would be a chance of bypassing the 10 percent electoral threshold requirement. Because−after receiving 7.4 percent votes of registered voters and 9.78 percent of the valid votes− Demirtaş initiated a new hope at the legislative elections that was scheduled to happen 10 months later on. Even though there were risks, this initiated the HDP to participate to the as a party at legislative elections of 2015 despite the 10 percent election threshold.
The HDP which took the support of 4.36 percent of registered voters in the local elections of 2014, became a party which obtained 10.88 percent support of registered voters and improved its share by 196 percent in the legislative elections of 2015. Although the presidential elections was a driving force, this alone would not be sufficient, for sure, to explain how the HDP could pass the threshold strongly. When change of the voting rates is observed between 2011 and 2015 elections, instead of 2014-2015 rates, HDP’s improvement goes back to 194.3 percent from 196 percent. But even this comparison demonstrates that HDP doubled its voters’ support during the 4-year period.
The Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Movement Party) (MHP) obtained the support of 11.1 percent of registered voters in legislative elections of 2011 and despite the fact that it could raise this support to 15.02 percent at the local elections of 2014, this ratio fell to 13.81 percent in 2015. This demonstrates that the MHP increased its voters’ support by 35 percent from legislative elections (2011) to local elections (2014) but reduced by 9 percent from local elections (2014) to legislative elections (2015). Does this situation mean that voters say in some way to MHP ‘you could be an alternative in the local government but not in the government of the country’? Otherwise, does it mean ‘you have to wait a bit more to be able to become an alternative to the AKP? Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the increase in the rate of those who ‘do not (could not) vote’ from 14.79 to 16.04 between 2011 and 2015, played a part in giving the impression of increase in votes of the MHP, with regards to valid votes, going up from 13.02 percent in 2011 to 16.45 percent in 2015.
Table 3. Domestic Political Preferences of Registered Voters in the Elections of 2014 and 2015.
Source: Yüksek Seçim Kurulu (Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey) (YSK).
The Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP) shows a stable trend from 2011 to 2015. Based on registered voters, electoral support of this party decreased from 22.13% in 2011 to 21.84% in 2014 and 21.1% in 2015. This situation ’may indicate that the CHP is stuck with one-fourth (25 percent) of constituency according to valid votes or it may be in a stationary position before moving to a more powerful position. The CHP and time will respond to this question.
The Distribution of MPs of the Winners and Losers
In the legislative elections of 7th June 2015, the number of the parties that passed the 10% election threshold was 4. This has significantly affected the number of the MPs elected from the provinces (il). The fact that 4 political parties passed the electoral threshold decreased the number of the votes that do not turn into MPs and enabled the parties to gain MPs with less votes. For example, in the elections of 2011 while the required number of votes to gain one MP position for the AKP was approximately 65 thousand, the required number of vote for independents was 80 thousand, for the CHP 82 thousand and for the MHP 105 thousand. In the elections of 2015, these numbers came close to each other and it was observed to be 71 thousand for the AKP, 73 thousand for the HDP, 86 thousand for the CHP and 93 thousand for the MHP.
In the legislative elections of 2011, one could group the 81 provinces into five groups with respect to the distribution of the deputies to the parties or to the position of the parties in the race among the political parties. These groups are:
- The first group is composed of the provinces from which all parties that have passed the election threshold and have deputies in the 2015 elections. The number of MPs from this group, which includes 3 metropolitan cities (Adana/İstanbul/Mersin) where 110 deputies were elected in 2011, was increased to 113 in the elections of 2015.
- The second group is composed of the provinces where the AKP, the CHP and the MHP had MPs in the elections of 2011. There are 23 provinces in this group and 239 MPs are elected from these provinces. Since the number of the MPs of a city in this group is increased by 1 and MPs of another city decreased by 1, the number of the MPs in the provinces in question stayed same in the both elections.
- The third group is composed of 22 provinces where only the AKP and the CHP had MPs in the elections of 2011. The MP number of this group in 2011 was 78 but this number decreased to 77 in 2015.
- The fourth group is composed of 6 provinces where the AKP and the MHP have MPs and where 23 MPs were elected in 2011 and 21 in 2015.
- The fifth group is composed of 15 neighbouring provinces where the HDP had MPs in the 2015 elections and where only the MPs of the AKP could be elected apart from the HDP. This group had 72 MPs in 2011 and 71 in 2015.
- The last group is composed of the provinces where only the AKP have deputies. The AKP had 28 MPs in the elections of 2011, and had 29 MPs in the elections of 2015.
Table 4. Table of ’MPs’ Gain and Loss in 2011 – 2015 Elections
Source: High Election Council (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu, YSK)
Although Table 4 shows that the CHP gained some −few−of the MPs where the AKP lost, it also shows that the AKP and the CHP clearly became losers vis-à-vis the HDP and the MHP. This shows that CHP could not take advantage of AKP’s losing power and this may also indicate that constituencies of the AKP and the CHP are politically polarised.
What the 7 June Election Results Make Us Think
When the interpretations given above related to elections of 7th June are analysed with the last 65-year multi-party Turkish politics’ perspective, many questions can be raised. −Although it is indirectly related to the subject− one may ask: ‘whether the voters have to watch over their votes being recorded closely and have the impact on the results in democracies?’ Because following the elections of 2007 and 2011, the belief that ruling power fell under the hegemony of the AKP due to gerrymanders became more and more prevalent −especially among the constituency of the CHP and the general oppositional constituency. However, the idea of preventing the gerrymander possibilities by observing ballot boxes, votes and proceedings has not been thought until the practice of the white-collar Gezi protesters reflected on the results of elections of 2014 and 2015. Eventually, legislative elections of 2015 gained historical importance given that constituents put efforts into establishing a secure election environment −by observing ballot boxes− In addition the HDP passed the electoral threshold and did not allow the AKP to come to power alone.
The results of elections of 7th June 2015 remind us the elections of 1991 and its outcomes. In the elections of 1991, the Halkın Emek Partisi (Peoples’ Labour Party) (HEP) participated in the election from the lists of the Sosyal Demokrat Halkçı Parti (Socialist Democratic Populist Party) SHP). While the votes of the SHP increased significantly in the southeastern Anatolia cities, decreased significantly in all other regions. Moreover, the HEP deputies elected from the list of the SHP were imprisoned for two, three years and the security-oriented state has chosen again to use force for the solution of the Kurdish problem. Although the outcomes of elections of 2015 made the CHP look like a party that came to a deadlock, party members of the CHP living in the western cities of Turkey voted for the HDP in order to support the HDP to pass the election threshold in the elections of 2015. Do we need to interpret this movement as the actualisation of the movement idea, −which was formed on the top but failed in 1991−, by being formed in party grassroots in 2015? If so, is there any possibility that failure of 24 years ago to contribute today’s success through self-confrontation? And if yes, how strong?
In the elections of 2015, the CHP and the HDP, as the voices of the left view, got the 32% of the total votes coming from registered voters. Under the leadership of Bülent Ecevit, the CHP got the %41.4 of the votes in the elections of 1977. In that year, together with the votes of other left view parties, only %30.6 of the total registered voters’ votes had an impact on the elections. Since the multiple party system (1950) left-wing political parties could never get more than 33% (Kardam, A., Tüzün, S., 1998) of the registered voters’ votes until now. Is it possible that the CHP and the HDP can be the parties that destroyed the left view threshold of the electors after destroying the election threshold with a dual structure? If this statement is a matter of discussion, the possibility of left view coming to power will provide what kind of opportunities with regards to democracy in Turkey?
Turkey has experienced single party regime with Menderes, Demirel, Özal and Erdoğan in the 38 years of the last 65 years. At every turn, those coming to power with the elections, tried almost anything possible in order not to lose the next elections. On 27th May 1960, a political party that would normally lose the elections by a fair and reliable election was overthrown by a military coup due to its authoritarian and anti-democratic implementation. The purpose of the military coup was to bring democracy to country. However, this coup indirectly told the voters of Turkey who need to struggle for justice and freedom that the power cures everything. If Menderes’s Demokrat Parti (Democrat Party) (DP) had lost its power in the elections that was supposed to be held in a few years instead of being overthrown with a military coup in 1960, would Turkey have had to bear the pro-coup generals’ parades and to wait until 2015 to overthrow an authoritarian rule with the elections?
With reference to the results of 7th June 2015 elections, answers for many questions can be sought. But first it is necessary to coherently understand the process thoroughly and to observe the developments −their aspects− and forms.
In Lieu of a Conclusion
The elections of 7th June drew an important conclusion. With a simple view, this conclusion can be understood as the formation of a multi-party coalition government instead of the AKP single-party rule. But apparently, there are two possibilities instead of one:
- First, in the democratic parliamentary system due to the usages, continuance of the existing political structure via coalition governments instead of the AKP’s single-party rule
- As the continuance of the process by AKP’s coalition within the party turning into two-party coalition, –Since at least 25% of the voters who have voted for AKP till now voted for MHP in the previous election, it can be thought as coalition within the party turning into a two-party coalition–
- Continuance of the democratic parliamentary system with or without AKP,
- The second possibility is AKP’s imposing the elected authoritarian politics based on presidency by sustaining its tendency to remain in power via early elections and new polarizations.
With reference to this judgement, it can be thought that outcomes of 2015 elections indicate that Turkish politics are at a crossroads where the dilemma between democracy and elected authoritarianism exists. Therefore, it can also be thought that these results indicate that we are at the beginning of this process, not at the end.
In the publication process of this article by Research Turkey, Erdogan’s extreme constitutional enforcements and the use of authority brought about a new election process. Besides, this decision is made only 80 days after the election and even when there were proposals from the opposition party to establish a coalition government. The following 5 days after the 80, all other political parties and groups are ignored and then under Davutoğlu’s leadership who completed his “not establishing coalition duty,” a new election government has been formed. The obligation of this election government is leading Turkey into a new election process in an environment that Erdoğan desires. However, this election environment;
- Will obstruct the chance that votes of the CHP and the HDP to go over 32 percent by registered voters in total due to especially the HDP sourced problems and support to CHP’s economy policies,
- Will obstruct that the MHP and the Büyük Birlik Partisi (Great Union Party) (BBP) together get over 15 percent as allies or MHP’s any alone attempts to get more votes,
- Will provide the AKP to go up to 37-38 percent of votes from the registered voters by inner-alliance (Saadet Partisi (Felicity Party) (SP) and the BBP.
This environment should provide above mentioned structure for the re-election to be useful for Erdoğan and the AKP. That signals the tactical arrangement of early/repeat elections. Considering all the interpretations, it is important to highlight that the elections of 2015 brought democratically elected authoritarianism dilemma to Turkey and indicate a starting point rather than an end.
Dr. Sezgin Tüzün, Director, Veri Research Company
Please cite this publication as follows:
Tüzün, S. (October, 2015), “The Change Brought by the 2015 Elections: From Elected Authoritarianism towards Democracy?” Vol. IV, Issue 10, pp.6-19, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), London, Research Turkey (http://researchturkey.org/?p=9794)
The political researches, made in relation to the presidential elections, and expressed to the public opinion were displaying evidences that the electoral turnout would be higher than 90 percent, and the votes R.T. Erdoğan was going to receive would be higher than 55 percent. However, in the case where the rate of valid votes are higher than 80 percent, the possibility to win the elections at the first round for Erdoğan, considering his voters’ maximum support, was made gradually impossible. So, were the political public opinion researches being used as a means of overcoming the emerging impossibility at the presidential elections in 2014?
Tüzün. S.; In this post at bianet.org on 8 August 2014, which titled ‘Some Enlightened Information about Election When We Go to the Ballot Box’ (Sandığa Giderken Zihin Açıcı Bazı Seçim Bilgileri), determination which is about “In 30 March 2014 local government elections, the number of envelope in every 1000 in 15, which thrown to the ballot box, is more than the number of registered voters in a ballot box.” were reached by calculating the data of election results based on local government election’ ballot box. The declaration of this result affected the declaration of 2014 presidential ballot box results and the possibility of the calculation of extra votes was eliminated thereby in the released data, only three candidates’ number of votes that receive at the ballot box explained instead of the information about electorate. [Accessed: 24 August 2015], Available at:
Kardam, A., Tüzün, S., (1998), Political Polarization and Voter Behavior in Turkey (Türkiye’de Siyasi Kutuplaşmalar ve Seçmen Davranışları), Ankara: Veri Araştırma Yayınları.
Tüzün., Sezgin.; In this post at bianet.org on 27 June 2012, which titled ‘Where the AKP’s votes come from?’ (AKP oyları nerden geliyor?), contains the distribution of parties which AKP’s voters voted for in previous election. This distribution also shows that one of the four voters, who voted for AKP, voted for MHP in previous election. [Accessed on 24th August 2015], Available at: