The landslide victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey’s November 1 election came as a shock to many, notes a new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Turkish pollsters had predicted the outcome would mirror that of the June 7 election—when the AKP lost its parliamentary majority—with nominal gains resulting in either a razor-thin majority or another hung parliament. The latest election result, however, comes as less of a surprise when placed in the context of Turkey’s increasingly tumultuous environment and after deciphering President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s divisive and fear-driven campaign strategy, according to Turkey Divided and Conquered: How the AKP Regained Power.
Turkey’s stability and security will be tested further under AKP leadership. Creeping authoritarianism and the Islamization of Turkish society, a reeling economy, an escalated Kurdish conflict, the mounting Syrian crisis, and the risk of further Islamic State attacks in Turkey will challenge the AKP as it balances continued provocation and fear-mongering with reconciling the deep divisions in society. It remains to be seen how the AKP will respond to these critical issues moving forward, but stability in Turkey and the surrounding region hinges on it.
Several lessons emerge from this most recent election, the report suggests:
- The AKP is the largest party in Turkey and has consistently garnered significantly more votes than any other political party for over a decade now.
- Turkish society is deeply and almost evenly polarized. There is little indication that there will be any shift in the balance of support between the AKP and other parties, barring a change in Turkey’s demographics.
- Even amid Turkey’s deeply polarized political environment, swing voters do exist and their decisions will continue to prove decisive.
- Despite a growing consensus that a political solution is required for Turkey’s Kurdish question, there remains a considerable nationalist constituency eager for military responses as well.
- For the AKP, one lesson from the election will almost certainly be that national crisis can translate into electoral opportunity.