Unprecedented Success of the HDP and the Failure of Erdoğan’s Super-Presidency

Unprecedented Success of the HDP and the Failure of Erdoğan’s Super-Presidency


General elections in Turkey were held on 7th June, the results suspended President Erdoğan’s aspirations regarding the executive presidential system that he was dreaming about. On the other hand, one of the main gains of the elections has been the increasing representation of the Kurdish-leftist Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party) (HDP) in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Although only about 30 MPs which share same ideology and political agenda were represented in the assembly after the 2011 elections, their number have reached to 80 according to the results of elections in 2015. In this paper, the reasons behind the rise of the HDP will be analysed.


When Turkey was approaching the parliamentary elections on 7th June 2015, it was widely seen that the future political regime of the country was dependent on the success of the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party) (HDP). The HDP is the successor party of many smaller Kurdish parties, which all of them were closed due to their alleged links to the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan’s Workers Party) (PKK) –the armed group that recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United States (United States of America, State Department) and the EU.

To be able to overcome the 10 per cent election threshold of Turkey, all the members of the previous representatives of the Kurdish movement entered in earlier general elections as independent candidates. In Turkey, when an individual runs as an independent candidate the 10 per cent threshold is not applicable, the rule is only applicable to political parties. The total vote rates of the previous representatives belonging to the Kurdish movement running in elections were always below the threshold. However, when the political parties were preparing for the election race, the co-leader of the HDP declared their decision running for the upcoming elections as a party (Hürriyet Daily News, 2015). Apparently it was a risky, yet bold, decision to make, since the share of votes that the representatives of the Kurdish movement received in the previous elections were always under the threshold.

HDP’s success

There was a direct link between the HDP’s success in the elections and the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ambitions to change the constitution in a way to increase his powers and mandate, in fact this would have created a Putin-style omnipotent presidency. In other words, President Erdoğan wanted to push the HDP under the election threshold to materialise his individual ambitions. Since the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP) was his party before he became the president in 2014 and despite the fact that the presidency is a politically neutral post above the fray of any political party, Erdoğan implicitly asked from the electorate to vote for his previous party throughout the election campaign. If the HDP had failed to pass the 10 per cent election threshold, the AKP, as the second party in the predominantly Kurdish populated constituencies in the south-eastern provinces of Turkey, would have received all the bonus seats. This could have enabled the AKP to change the constitution to create a presidential system. However, Erdoğan’s plan did not work out as the HDP received 13.1 per cent of the votes nationwide, which provided it with an unprecedented number of 80 MPs in the Turkish National Assembly. Thus, Turkish electorate sent a strong message to Erdoğan and to his political desire to become a president equipped with broader mandate and powers.

Although the predecessors of the HDP managed to get only 6-7 per cent in the previous elections, how could they carve out 13.1 per cent of popular vote? The answer to this question is multi-faceted. First, obviously, at least some of the electorate in Turkey realised the ill-fated destination of the country if the HDP fails and the AKP gets those MPs which would give them majority to amend the constitution single-handedly. Hence, they voted for the HDP to prevent Erdoğan from making his dreams come true. Second, the HDP attracted some voters whom they had not voted for them in the previous elections due to the fear that their votes would be wasted by the 10 per cent threshold. Third, thanks to the Kurdish resolution process that has been conducted via talks between the Turkish intelligence and the PKK representatives, armed attacks of the PKK have been suspended. Therefore, people might want to give them a chance since the terrorist activities of the PKK, which is frequently associated with the HDP, were halted and a political process could now be initiated. Four, the co-leadership system, the high representation of women within the party, pledge to fight for social justice and equality and to protect the rights of minorities including lesbians, gay, bisexuals and trans (LGBTs) people seems to make the HDP more attractive particularly among young voters.

In lieu of conclusion

The aforementioned reasons played a major role in boosting the votes of the HDP; yet also increased the responsibility of it. It can be argued that the HDP has the most diverse constituency among all parties in Turkey considering the varied profile of its supporters. It seems impossible to deny the fact that the HDP received most of its votes both from liberal and pious Kurds, but also from the people who are not ethnically Kurds, nonetheless who realised that the only way to thwart Erdoğan’s super-presidency dreams was to vote for the HDP. If the HDP successfully handle this mandate, which is given by the aforementioned broad constituency, it can have a significant role in shaping the future of Turkey in the next parliamentary term.

Yunus Giray Özatıcı, MA in International Political Economy, King’s College London

Please cite this publication as follows:

Özatıcı, Y. G.(August, 2015), “Unprecedented Success of the HDP and the Failure of Erdoğan’s Super-Presidency”, Vol. IV, Issue 8, pp.30-33, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=9642)


U.S. Department of State, 2015. Foreign Terrorist Organizations. [Accessed on 25/06/2015] Available at: http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm

Hürriyet Daily News, 2015. HDP determined to go to polls as party to challenge Turkish election threshold. [Accessed on 25/06/2015]

Available at: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/hdp-determined-to-go-to-polls-as-party-to-challenge-turkish-election-threshold.aspx?pageID=238&nID=76959&NewsCatID=338



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