Turkish further polarised with criticism over election result

Turkey has been left polarised further as the latest Parliamentary election resulted in a surprising victory for controversial, conservative AK (Justice and Development) Party with a 49.4 per cent majority, with opposition Politicians and Journalists deeming the results ‘unfair’. Erdogan has called for people to respect the people’s voice. International observers and critics have blasted the atmosphere of “violence and fear” around Erdogan’s campaign in light of arrests of opposition activists and stifling of press freedoms.

The AKP won the election with 317 of the 550 seats, giving a clear majority but wasn’t a sufficient amount to give Erdogan, who is often cited by critics as a dictator, the powers he had hoped to get. Had Erdogan’s party won 330, they would have had power to hold a referendum on changing the constitution to give the President more powers, while 367 would have allowed him to force through an enhancement of powers. Moves critics say would further his authoritarianism on the country and implement more fundamentalist policies.

The centre-left and main opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) came in second with 25.4 per cent of the vote, while the far-Right MHP (Nationalist Movement) came in third with 11.9 per cent. The left-wing and Pro-Kurdish HDP (People’s Democratic Party) – who have a 10 per cent LGBT and 50 per cent Women quota for their candidates – came in fourth place with 10.7 per cent of the votes, a decrease from the last election in June when they entered Parliament for the first time with 13.12 per cent of the vote.

The HDP’s leader, Selahattin Demirtas, said following the result that it had not been a “fair or equal election” and blamed the decrease in votes for his party on the fact that they were unable to campaign publicly since a bombing at a Pro-HDP peace rally in Ankara in July that killed over 100 people. “We held no campaign. We simply tried to save our people from massacres”, he said. The government said the attackers were linked to the ISIS group.

The HDP Party also complained that much of the government-controlled media had been biased in favour of the AKP with The Independent citing a survey of state-owned TV Channels that showed Erdogan and the AKP received 30 hours of coverage during October, compared to five hours for the rival CHP and just 18 minutes for the HDP.

Erdogan is well known and often criticised for his control and censoring of both the media and the internet. The former PM had briefly blocked access to Twitter following the anti-government Gezi Park Protests in 2013 and had spoken of his hopes to ban Facebook in the country too.

Turkey now rates 149 out of 180 in the Press Freedom Index and the opposition party CHP claim that over 1,863 journalists have lost their jobs due to their anti-government views in the 12 years of AKP rule.

Just days before the election Turkish police raided the offices of an opposition media company for alleged links to Fethullah Gullen, a cleric living in exile in the USA who is accused of trying to topple Erdogan. Further legal action against opposition papers are planned including the MHP backed Sozcu newspaper. “After the first of November, we will hold them accountable. Sozcu newspaper insults us every day.” said Aydin Unal, a legislator in the ruling party.

“Criminal investigations of journalists and media outlets for alleged support of terrorism and defamation of the president, the blocking of websites and the effective seizure of some prominent media outlets reduced voters’ access to a plurality of views and information” is what, according to Andreas Gross from the Council of Europe, made the elections unfair.

Despite his previous convictions for incitement to religious hatred and criticisms for spending over $350 million on a 1,000 room Presidential palace, Erdogan and his AK Party have been praised for restoring Turkey’s economy to a strong one following its recession in 2001 and for giving a voice to Turkey’s conservatives.

It may also be noted that the threat of ISIS and PKK/Kurdish militants has drawn people to see his tough stance on security as a source of stability for the country. In his winning speech he said “The final decisive actor in our political word is the national will, and yesterday on November 1st, the national will favoured stability”.

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