Update: Ruling AKP regains majority in Turkey. Here's what that means.

The World
Updated on
Women wave flags outside the AKP headquarters in Ankara, Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the outcome of a general election which swept his AKP back to a parliamentary majority on Sunday as a victory for democracy.

Update: Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has won a parliamentary election. The AKP has regained the majority it lost in June.

On Sunday, Turkey held its second set of elections in five months. The country last held elections on June 7. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which had been in control for the past 13 years lost its single-party rule as other parties began to gain favor, and won several parliamentary seats. The AKP was unable to form coalitions with the opposition parties. 

"They had an election in June. But the results were not to the liking of President Erdoğan, and he made sure that a coalition government couldn't be formed," says Birol Yesilada, professor of political science and international studies at Portland State University. He's an expert in contemporary Turkish politics.

Turkish parliamentary seats are allocated by proportional representation, but a party needs at least 10 percent of the vote to enter parliament. In the latest public opinion polls, the Guardian found the AKP leading with 41.4 percent of the vote. Depending on how the other parties fare, this would leave the AKP with about 260 seats in the 550 seat parliament — roughly the same as the June elections. A party needs 276 seats to rule without a coalition. As of this update and almost all of the results counted, the AKP is set to win substantially more than the 276 seats needed to win a majority, allowing it to form a government on its own.

"It is obvious that AKP will be the first party," says Esra Özyürek, an associate professor in contemporary Turkish studies at the London School of Economics. "... If they can do that [win the needed 276 seats], then they can change the constitution and they can institute a presidential system which gives unprecedented amounts of power to President Erdoğan. Lately, Turkey has been really moving toward being an authoritarian country and if more powers are given to the president most observers concur that it will be an unreturnable point for Turkey."

But there has been increasing tension in Turkey since June, with violence rocking the captial blamed on the government. "It's like a powder keg. Turkey has never been so divided along two ideological cleavages," says Yesilada. "We're seeing this hit us in the face from public opinion polls time after time. And they've been deepening, getting more and more explosive. One is the Turkish/Kurdish nationalism divide, which intensified after the last elections and with all the bombings going on and terrorist activities. The other is the Islamist/secular divide. And this is threatening to tear up the country."

Yesilada predicts that with an AKP win there could be ripple effects in Turkey and abroad.

"Freedom of press is pretty much gone," says Yesilada, "More and more journalists are arrested, more and more outlets are closed, shut down. And that's coming directly from journalist friends of mine who've been observers of political developments in Turkey for a very long time."

"... I am worried. I have never seen the Turkish political scene this bad domestically, and internationally, and I have been following it since the 70s," says Yesilada. "Deep inside people's identities and frustrations are these two major divides I have mentioned, the Islamist/secular divide, and the Turkish/Kurdish nationalism divide that threaten the country to the extent that it is quite possible there will be an explosion and potential civil war in Turkey."

While many have expressed concern, the AKP electoral victory has one group that's fully supportive.

"There's one thing that's positive about this election: Erdogan and his Justice and Development party have been very, very welcoming towards the 2 million Syrian refugees that are in Turkey right now," says Buzzfeed's Borzou Daragahi.

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