ISTANBUL — Turkey saw a dramatic shake-up in its political status quo Sunday as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority after 13 years in power, burying the hopes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for extended powers in a new role as executive head of state.
The HDP, a leftist party with Kurdish roots which came to power promising greater minority rights and decentralization of power, outperformed expectations, breaking the 10 percent threshold needed to send MPs to parliament, and was expected to win 78 seats.
With most of the vote counted, the AKP won a projected 259 seats, 17 seats under a simple majority, leading to the likelihood that the party would be forced into a coalition for the first time since it came to power in 2002.
The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was projected to win 130 seats while the second opposition party, the Nationalist Movement Party, was expected to win 83.
Financial markets responded with cautious enthusiasm to the shake-up; the lira gained 2 cents against the dollar, a more sober counterpoint to the jubilation among left-wing and Kurdish voters across the country.
Erdoğan’s ruling party, AKP, is likely to be forced into a coalition for the first time since it came to power in 2002.
The high-stakes election took place against a backdrop of tension and violence. On Friday, two bombs were detonated at an HDP rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, killing two people and injuring over five hundred, leading to fears that an angry backlash from Kurds in the region would threaten the prospect of a peaceful vote.
However, in the aftermath of the bombings, HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas called for calm and voting passed relatively smoothly, despite separate fears that polling would be beset by the same allegations of voting irregularities that marred the municipal elections last year.
Isolated incidents were reported in the Southeast, where fights broke out among AKP and HDP supporters over alleged voting irregularities, and fights in the central Anatolian town of Sincan were blamed on MHP supporters.
Overall, however, the reassuring presence of tens of thousands of volunteer ballot box monitors and a concerted public effort to conduct fair elections has drawn both a domestic and international sigh of relief, particularly among opponents of Erdoğan’s plans to change the constitution, which might have been possible with a resounding AKP win.
Instead, political analysts forecast coalition possibilities which might even see a combined opposition coalition taking power, a highly unexpected outcome even for the most optimistic of anti-government pundits.
Also unclear: Whether Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will follow through on his pledge to resign if the AKP failed to retain its majority in parliament.