In Brief

Turkey elections: why the nation voted for Erdogan

Justice and Development Party (AKP) retains majority in surprise results amid a climate of fear and violence

Turkey's ruling right-of-centre party has reinforced its grip on power, winning a snap parliamentary election which restores the majority it lost in June. 

Analysts said voters feared terror attacks and chaos would result if they voted for any party other than the authoritarian Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The escalating terrorist attacks and decline of the economy since July created fear about political instability," Turkish analyst and columnist Mustafa Akyol told Al Jazeera.

In an unexpected result, the AKP managed to secure 49.4 per cent of the vote – enough for a majority of 316 seats in the Turkish parliament, the broadcaster reports.

The main opposition CHP won roughly 25 per cent of the vote, the nationalist MHP party claimed 11.9 per cent and the pro-Kurdish HDP party just over 10.5 per cent. 

The polls were held amid increasing violence between government forces and Kurdish rebels and growing concern that the clashes could signal the beginning of a wider civil conflict.

Erdogan said the result "delivered an important message" to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that "oppression and bloodshed cannot coexist with democracy."

"Our people clearly showed in the November 1 elections that they prefer action and development to controversy," he added.

But the election result could "exacerbate divisions in a country deeply polarised along both ethnic and sectarian lines," says The Guardian.

Erdogan's critics also warn that he could use his new mandate to intensify attacks on Kurdish targets in the southeast and continue to clamp down on dissenting voices.

"He has now the half of the national vote on his side to argue for legitimacy and perhaps even as carte blanche to extend his rule into autocracy," Yavuz Baydar argues in The Guardian.

"With this result, Turkey will not approach stability, instead its systemic crisis will deepen."

Is Turkey teetering on the brink of its own civil war?

29 October

Fresh parliamentary elections are being held in Turkey this week against a backdrop of increasing violence between government forces and Kurdish rebels.

The nation will head to the polls again this Sunday following a stalemate in the aftermath of the June election - and concerns are growing that the vote will do little to quell the growing conflict.

What caused the increase in tensions?

A fragile ceasefire between the state and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) broke down in July when the government launched air strikes against militant camps in northern Iraq.

The group, deemed a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government and several Western states, has been fighting for greater autonomy for the minority Kurdish population since the 1980s.

More than 40,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the insurgency, according to the BBC.

Turkey recently suffered the deadliest terrorist attack in its history, when more than 100 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a suicide attack on a peace march in the capital Ankara.

Thousands had gathered to call for an end to the escalating violence between the army and the PKK. Though the attack was widely blamed on Islamic State, the government responded by sending more warplanes to bomb Kurdish rebel targets in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq.

What will happen in the elections?

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered its worst defeat in more than a decade in the last election, in part due to the rise of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HPD).

The surge in support meant that the HPD entered parliament for the first time and Kurds were finally given a significant voice on the national stage. Despite this, there is little optimism among Kurds ahead of Sunday's vote.

"Instead of enthusiasm for the ballot box there is the silence of the coffins," Idris Baluken, a senior figure in the HPD told Reuters. "Less than a week to the election, and everywhere in Kurdistan is under the shadow of guns and the sound of warplanes."

Is this the beginning of a wider civil conflict?

The country is currently witnessing some of the worst violence since the height of the PKK's insurgency in the 1990s and the bloodshed looks set to continue.

Dozens of Turkish security personnel, PKK fighters and innocent civilians have been killed as the clashes move to urban centres, The Economist reports. Curfews are in place in towns across the southeast and battles are raging in strategic cities such as Cizre.

Istanbul-based journalist Constanze Letsch wonders if letting the country descend into chaos is a way for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to garner support ahead of the election.

"Presumably demonstrating that only a majority-AKP government would be able to secure peace and prosperity," Letsch writes in The Nation.

But not everyone is as pessimistic. Maya Arakon, associate professor of International Relations at Suleyman Sah University in Istanbul, told the BBC that the country is now at a crucial crossroad: "Turkey is a dangerous place and going through a dangerous transition period, but it won't fall apart."


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