Amid the backdrop of intensifying war in neighboring Syria and increasing political tensions internally, voters in Turkey devastated the hopes of moderate and progressive reformers—some of whom clashed with riot police on Sunday—as news spread the nation’s much-maligned rightwing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had reclaimed power as his Justice and Development Party (AKP) had received enough support to re-establish single-party control over the government.
As the Guardian reports:
Sunday’s unexpected results in Turkey will be viewed as devastating for Erdoğan’s numerous critics and as Reuters notes, the “results could aggravate deep splits” within the country. According to VICE News:
“I’m horrified. I don’t want to live in this country anymore because I don’t know what is awaiting us,” Guner Soganci, a 26-year-old waitress in Istanbul, told Agence France-Presse in the wake of the results. “We missed our only chance to end Erdogan’s dictatorship.”
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Meryem Bahar, a banker, told AFP she was having a hard time believing the results. “They must have cheated,” she said, “because there is a big difference between what the opinion polls suggested and what we got today.” Now, she said, “we are expecting the worst.”
Ahead of the poll results, critics of Erdogan had elevated hopes that after being wounded in the June elections, the AKP would finally be swept from power. However, even as he appeared politcally vulnerable, many charged Erdoğan with waging a sinister ploy to consolidate power by sowing internal divisions—namely by targeted and antagonizing his strongest opponents and most outspoken critics, including journalists, youth activists, HDP members, and pro-democracy champions.
Clashes between disappointed HDP supporters and government police forces were reported on Sunday evening following announcement of the preliminary results. As AFP reports:
In an analysis published in the Independent/UK on Friday, Ranj Alaaldin, a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and expert on Turkish politics, said the AKP government during Erdogan’s rule has reversed hard-won strides towards democracy and peace previously achieved by Turkey and “returned the country to levels of violence and instability not seen for decades. Widely criticised for his strongman authoritarian rule and his suppression of liberal and progressive values, Erdoğan wants to modify Turkey’s constitution so that it gives him, as president, more powers.”
While disappointed by the AKP’s overall victory, some did take mild solace in that the left-leaning, pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP) was able to surpass the 10 percent threshold it needed in order to maintain seats in parliament. Meanwhile, reporting by the Middle East Eye‘s Arwa Ibrahim, poor showing by the hard-right MHP led commentators to suggest “its supporters had shifted to the AKP.” In a tweet, Vijay Prashad, a professor of international studies at Trinity College, characterized the implications of those specific results this way:
Offering a possible example of the repressive atmosphere that now pervades Turkey under Erdoğan, the “Most Read” story on Hurriyet Daily—even as the election results dominated the front page on Sunday—was an article about two child cousins, ages 12 and 13, who are now facing more than two years in prison after they were arrested on charges of “insulting the Turkish president” after allegedly ripping down posters of the AKP leader. Many journalists and political activists have been arrested on similar charges.
“It is devastating to see two children being tried for tearing down a poster of the president,” Ismail Korkmaz, a lawyer representing the cousins, told the newspaper as he reportedly slammed the current “illiberal” justice system in Turkey.
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