Analysis: Turkey’s surprise election result could be good news for democracy and has sent four Christians to parliament
The outcome of Turkey’s 7 June parliamentary elections was startling. Most analysts foresaw a fall in election share for the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party), and the possibility of the pro-Kurdish HDP (People’s Democratic Party) obtaining the necessary 10 per cent of votes to qualify for representation, but a result in which the AKP was unable to form a single majority government sent shockwaves. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP had won a majority in every Turkish election since 2002.
The ruling party has been facing fierce criticism on human rights and for the authoritarian tendencies of President Erdogan who wanted to change the constitution to grant the office of presidency more power. In fact, while Erdogan, as President, was not running in the elections, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is the official AKP leader, it was clear that this election was as much about Erdogan and his future as the actual party elections themselves.
Commentators are now examining every aspect of the election results as the country waits to see a coalition government formed – something that has to happen within 45 days of the election result. At face value, it is a relief for democracy to see President Erdogan’s ambitions curbed. But, any declaration of his end is premature, as the part still won some 41 per cent of the votes – 16 per cent of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) - and he enjoys wide support. It is also promising to see Kurdish concerns represented by a unified party, rather than independent MPs as before.
Hopeful signs for Kurds, women and Christians
Yet beyond these, there are other promising signs. More than 85 per cent of the Turkish electorate turned out to vote. Thousands of Turks volunteered to monitor ballot boxes. Most excitingly, the Turkish Parliament now has more women MPs than ever before in its history – 96 female MPs or 17 per cent of the total, and all parties have increased the number of women MPs significantly.
Still more groundbreaking, for the first time in at least 50 years, Turkey sees multiple Christian MPs entering Parliament. The AKP has one Armenian MP, the CHP another Armenian, the Kurdish HDP one Armenian and a Syriac. This is an historic moment for Turkey, and even more thrilling because the MPs are from three distinctly different parties with clearly opposing political views. Such diversity is a healthy sign because Christians will not be seen as a mono-bloc in political preferences.
In a country like Turkey, MPs potentially have a large influence, depending on their party’s leadership and their own energy. Time will show how this symbolically important moment will impact the place of Christians in Turkey. But even now, such visibility is important to say “We are here, we are part of this country too”. The dwindling Christian community in Turkey is thrilled with the development.
Yet, problems remain. Social hostilities towards Christians are still high. A coalition government which brought the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) into government could see moves to check the increasing openings Christians have been receiving. However, things are changing in Turkey. Christians need to learn to be visible, to be active and to be in the middle of developments, not only to ensure their own future in the country but also to remain faithful to be the salt and light of this large and influential nation.