Turkish anti-Israel President Erdogan suffers electoral setback

Turkey’s Islamist Freedom and Justice Party suffered a setback in recent elections, dashing Erdogan’s hopes of increasing his own power through a constitutional amendment.

Kurdish voter in Turkey

A survivor of a bombing at a pro-Kurdish party rally votes in Turkey. (AP)

By Lauren Calin, World Israel News

In a setback for Islamism in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Freedom and Justice Party (AKP) lost its majority in the Turkish Parliament. Although Erdoğan will likely retain leadership, the fiercely anti-Israel politician will have a much harder time imposing changes to the Turkish constitution that would have increased his power.

State television announced that with 99.9% of the votes counted, the AKP earned 41 percent, down from 49% in 2011. This loss came despite extensive campaigning by Erdoğan, who urged voters to give his party a large majority so that he could amend the Turkish constitution in order to give greater power to the president. Erdoğan’s opponents criticized him, noting that the constitution prohibits him from participating in election campaigns.

The big winner in the Turkish elections is the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which earned 13% of the vote, passing the threshold to join parliament for the first time. Analysts say that the HDP benefited from Kurdish disenchantment with Erdoğan. Although the AKP’s Islamism has been bad for Turkish-Israeli relations, it has been a boon to the Kurds, whose national and linguistic identity was traditionally oppressed in Turkey.

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The Republican People’s Party (CHP) won 25% of the vote; the Nationalist Movement Party, 17%.

Turkish Prime Minister and AKP head Ahmet Davutoglu waves to supporters with his wife, Sare.

Turkish Prime Minister and AKP head Ahmet Davutoglu waves to supporters with his wife, Sare. (AP)

The AKP’s tone in declaring victory was subdued this year. “The winner of the election is again the AKP, there’s no doubt,” declared Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. “This is the decision of the nation. Don’t worry, it will be for the best.” The premier told the opposition parties that they “should not claim victory in an election they lost.”

Turkish-Israeli relations have deteriorated precipitously under the AKP. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel, and they had enjoyed strong economic, military, and tourism ties. Erdoğan has accused Israel of “state terrorism” for defending itself against Hamas rocket attacks and even invited Hamas leader Khaled Mashal to pay an official visit. Turkey ended diplomatic relations with Israel in 2011 until 2013 due to the Mavi Marmara incident, in which a Turkish ship ostensibly carrying humanitarian aid but actually loaded with weapons for Hamas ambushed IDF soldiers who were sent to stop the ship and escort it to shore. Military ties have remained suspended since 2011.