The presidential and parliamentary elections which were held together on June 24 were a critical turning point in Turkey’s break away from the parliamentary system. The new executive presidential regime is simply the legal cover of a one-man rule. Although the Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost 7% in the parliamentary vote, its leader Erdoğan polled 52.2% in the presidential vote with support from his ultra-nationalist ally the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), thus officially becoming the president of the state.
The elections were held under a state of emergency, drastic media censorship and an oppressive environment where all kinds of opposition were branded by the government as treason.
An alliance against the politics of polarization
In this process, while the government stepped up its politics of polarization, Erdoğan tried to conserve his support among the right-wing and conservative sectors of the society through nationalist propaganda. The government continued to pursue a populist politics, employing the state’s means to the benefit of pro-government companies and its constituency. The other half of the society, not supporting the government nor Erdoğan, that consists of more secular-minded sectors, ethnic and denominational minorities, and left-wing groups, continued to be stigmatized.
During this turbulent run-up to the elections, opposition parties tried to resist the government’s polarization attempts. The elections were marked by alliances. While the MHP rallied behind the AKP, the mainstream opposition alliance was formed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) – the main opposition party which appeals to secular voters, İYİ Party, a new nationalist party which split off from MHP under the leadership of a female figure and the Islamist Felicity Party which most AKP founders hailed from. Meanwhile, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), mainly based on Kurdish movement and also supported by socialists, was not included in this larger alliance. Although the leaders and other former MPs of HDP have been imprisoned for a few years, the party succeeded in passing the ten percent threshold and reinforcing its legitimacy.