Breakthrough for Turkey’s Kurds as AK Party set to lose majority

Major blow to Erdogan’s hopes of changing government to presidential system

Supporters celebrate early election results outside the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) headquarters in Istanbul on Sunday night. Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters

Supporters celebrate early election results outside the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) headquarters in Istanbul on Sunday night. Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters

 

The Kurdish-rooted People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is set to enter Turkey’s parliament for the first time following elections on Sunday that were a sweeping blow to the ruling AK Party’s hopes of changing the country’s system of government to a presidential system.

Gaining 12.6 per cent of the vote with 96 per cent counted, the HDP capitalised on growing concern among Turks of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies. As president, Mr Erdogan is constitutionally-bound to stay clear of day-to-day politics and now he, and the AK Party he helped found, will be forced to reassess their political futures. The AK Party also lost its parliamentary majority.

Though the election largely went off without incident, scuffles took place outside a polling station in the province of Sanliurfa close to the Syrian border where video footage showed men carrying rifles and wooden batons. Elsewhere, cars bearing no registration plates were seen inside the grounds of polling stations in Istanbul and around the country.

The website of a popular news agency close to Erdogan foe Fethullah Gulen went offline shortly after 5pm as ballots closed.

The HDP, which allocates half its membership to women, has been the subject of a series of violent attacks in recent weeks, including the shooting dead of a campaign bus driver and the bombing of a rally that left two people dead last Friday in Diyarbakir.

The AK Party campaigned on a platform that included promoting a higher fertility rate and, critically, introducing a presidential system of government that would see the country’s president, currently Mr Erdogan, be given executive powers. The leading opposition party, the CHP, also suffered from the swing to HDP among voters.

On the streets of Yenidogan, a predominantly Kurdish district in eastern Istanbul, local youths defied calls from the HDP leadership to refrain from celebrating in the streets. Dozens of youths in cars bearing the HDP flag beeped horns and chanted “victory to the HDP”.