Turkey holds a snap election on Sunday, November 1, amid political divisions, an escalating terrorism crisis, and renewed hostilities between the government and Kurdish separatists, all of which have edged Turkey closer to the brink of an all-out civil war — making the results of Sunday’s election some of the most crucial in the country’s recent history.
The elections are the second this year in Turkey, after June polling saw the ruling AKP — the Justice and Development Party — lose an overall majority in the Turkish parliament for the first time the party founded and ruled by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (pictured above, casting his ballot Sunday) rose to power in 2002.
UPDATE: 1:55 p.m. U.S. EST: The latest Turkey election results show the ruling AKP, also known as the Justice and Development Party, has reclaimed the majority in the country’s grand assembly that it lost in the June elections earlier this year.
According to The New York Times, citing state-run television network TRT, Turkey Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the AKP leader, declared victory after preliminary results showed the AKP winning about 49 percent of the vote which is being contested by four major political parties, with 95 percent of results in.
However, the major Turkish newspaper Zaman reported numerous claims of vote rigging coming in from regions all over Turkey. Prior to the election, rumors ran rampant throughout Turkey that the AKP planned steal the election through subterfuge, to restore the parliamentary majority that it lost in June for the first time since the party, founded by current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, came to power in 2002.
Erdoğan has dominated politics in Turkey ever since, either as prime minister or as president, though the presidential office under Turkey’s current constitution is largely a ceremonial position. Turkey’s current prime minister is AKP leader Ahmet Davutoğlu, the former foreign minister who took over when Erdoğan was elected president last year.
But in the first 2015 Turkey national election, held in June, Erdoğan had hoped to win a AKP super-majority of the country’s 550-seat grand national assembly, or 367 seats. That total would have allowed Erdoğan to rewrite the country’s constitution, giving the president greater executive powers.
A 330-seat supermajority would also allow changes to the constitution by the ruling party, but would require a national referendum to approve any such revisions. So in effect, June’s elections, as well as Sunday’s November snap elections, are a referendum on whether the voters of Turkey want a presidential, executive form of government — and also whether they want Erdoğan to become a political strongman, solidifying his hold over the country.
But in June, the leading opposition party — the CHP, or Republican People’s Party — won 132 seats while two newer parties, for the first time, broke the 10 percent barrier required to take seats in the assembly.
The ultra-right-wing Nationalist Movement Party, better known as the Gray Wolves, and the left-wing, pro-Kurdish HDP — the People’s Democratic Party — each won 80 seats in the parliament, leaving Erdoğan’s AKP with 258, a full 18 short of of the 276 needed to control national policy without forming a coalition government.
But Turkey has faced a series of crises since the June elections, the most alarming of which has been the sudden rise in deadly terrorist attacks inside Turkish borders, carnage blamed mainly on ISIS, which is based just over the border between Turkey and Syria.
The latest attack, on October 10, was the worst, as two bomb blasts killed 102 people gathered at a left-wing peace rally in the Turkey capital of Ankara, a city of more than 4.5 million.
While investigators in Ankara point the finger squarely at ISIS for the horrific attack, the worst in Turkey’s modern history, left-wing activists accuse the Erdoğan government of supporting the terror attack through nod-and-a-wink policies toward Turkey’s internal Islamist movement.
At the same time, Erdoğan blamed the attack on a conspiracy of the Islamic militants with the outlawed Kurdish PKK — the Kurdistan Worker’s Party — which is labeled a terrorist group not only by the government in Turkey, but by the United States administration, as well.
Most experts give little credence to Erdoğan’s conspiracy theory, however, but the president has only deepened the country’s political divide with his accusations.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. local time Sunday in Turkey, which was 11 p.m. Saturday night, United States Eastern Time. The first poll closings are scheduled for 4 p.m. in Turkey — 8 a.m. U.S. Eastern.
Live updated Turkey elections results can be found online on the James In Turkey news site, available at this link, as well as on the Turkish Hürriyet Daily News site, which can be accessed at this link. For a full overview of the Turkey elections, political parties and issues, see the Al Jazeera Turkey election site, at this link, while instant updates can also be found on Twitter at this link, using the hashtag #TurkeyElections. Live updated Turkey election results can be followed in Turkish at the Avrupa site, accessible by clicking here.
[Featured Photo By Gokhan Tan / Getty Images]