Turkey's election result will have a mixed effect in the region
The comprehensive victory of Turkey's AKP in this week’s parliamentary election came as a shock to many pundits following the party’s inability to form a majority in last June's election poll, wrote Taoufik Bouachrine, the publishing director of the Morocco-based daily Akhbar Al Youm.
Last Sunday, the AKP won 49.4 per cent of the vote, enough for a majority of 316 seats in the 550-seat parliament. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the result was a vote for stability while the opposition blamed the defeat on violence and fear that have plagued the country this year.
The AKP benefited from many developments since losing the majority in June. For one, a split occurred in the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) after its radical leader expelled Tukrul Türkei, the eldest son of the party's founder Alparslan Türkei, who protested at the leader’s refusal to participate in a coalition government with the AKP. Mr Tukrul joined the AKP, thus denying the MHP half its June seats.
Also, the law on the two parliamentary terms, which prohibited the AKP candidates from standing as MPs more than twice, had been cancelled. The law was detrimental for the party as many popular figures were forced into early parliamentary retirement.
Finally, the Islamist party changed its electoral strategy: the proposal of changing the political system from parliamentary to presidential disappeared from the party’s political rhetoric, and the party’s leader, Mr Erdogan, was not involved in direct electoral campaign.
Bouachrine went on to say that the AKP’s fourth-term win has not been good news for many countries in the region. Israel is annoyed by Ankara’s anti-occupation policies along with the European Union and the US, who seemingly don’t want to see a powerful Muslim country combining democracy with Islam. Arab countries also seem concerned about a growing democracy amid a turbulent region returning to tyranny after the Arab Spring.
Commenting on Turkey’s poll results in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, Samir Al Saadawi wrote that the win, although enough to allow the AKP to form a government on its own, fell short of Mr Erdogan’s aspirations to transform Turkey into a presidential system, because the AKP failed to achieve a supermajority.
Those who voted for the AKP, the writer said, did so because they appreciate the party’s economic achievements. The Turkish voters’ decision was chiefly motivated by economic factors. Moreover, the Turkish people opted for stability at a time when the ruling AKP appeared to have given them the option to choose between voting for the party or risk chaos and terrorism, according to the writer. The vote also showed that the people were in tune with the AKP in “refusing to yield to European dictates”, with most Turks becoming content with the continuing government efforts to allow visa-free travel to the EU, convinced that Europe will not let Turkey in the bloc anyway.
Other Arab commentators were concerned about the effects of the election on the Syrian war. In the Saudi-owned daily Asharq Al Awsat, Abdulrahman Al Rashid remarked that the AKP remaining in power means that Turkey will stand in the way of Iran's plans in Syria.
Mr Erdogan’s victory was expected, Al Rashid continued. What was needed was a comfortable majority to allow him to form a government. This is what happened. With a weak coalition government, Turkey would have backed off as an influential player in the Syrian arena at a critical time.
Now, the Turkish president and his government are well positioned to sit at the negotiating table and back the camp facing Iran and the Syrian regime. A strong Turkey is the country most capable of handling the situation in Syria due to the length of its border and its significant resources.
No doubt, the AKP’s stunning win has come as a disappointment to the Syrian regime and Iran, both of which were looking forward to the party failing to secure an outright majority to undermine the negotiating power of the Saudi-Qatar-Turkey bloc over the Syrian conflict, Al Rashid argued.
The Turks are expected to lead the way in thwarting Iranian endeavours in Syria. This is because Ankara is concerned with what is unfolding on its southern borders in Iraq and Syria, and is fully aware that the Iranian expansion in these countries would tip the balance against Turkey.
*Translated by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni
Updated: November 4, 2015 04:00 AM