Turkey Institute publishes an annual Turkey Report providing succinct insight and analysis into the most significant developments of the past year. This first report has been assembled using the collective effort, expertise and input of our research fellows. The structure of the report is as follows: it begins by listing key developments in Turkey from May 2014 to June 2015. The report then discusses the trajectory of the Kurdish peace process carried out by Turkey’s government and the Kurdish armed group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Given its wider implications for Turkey’s form of governance, the report then examines President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presidency as well as the run-up to and the results of Turkey’s 2015 general elections. This is followed by an appraisal of the repercussions in 2015 of the derailed judicial investigations into government corruption and money laundering in December 2013. The report then considers Turkey’s foreign relations with the Western world. The report concludes with an analysis of Turkey’s economy that is demonstrating promising macroeconomic highs as well as heightened structural weaknesses.
Overview of Turkey Between May 2014 and June 2015
- Turkey’s political and social scene has become very complicated and volatile following the 2013 Gezi Park protests, anti-corruption investigations and regional problems.
- Overall, there has been regression in Turkey this year at a number of levels: democracy, human rights, rule of law, transparency and accountability, trust in politics, and economic conditions.
- This regression is owed in large part to Erdoğan’s growing authoritarianism as demonstrated by the systematic undoing of mechanisms that maintain the separation of powers, the relentless and aggressive persecution of journalists and social media users and the pressure exerted on the business and third sector in Turkey.
- During this period and in chronological order, Turkey elected a new president for the first time by popular vote; the Justice and Development Party (AKP) appointed Ahmet Davutoğlu as its new leader, who as a result also became the unelected Prime Minister of Turkey and Turkey held its 24th general election in 2015.
- President Erdoğan campaigned on behalf of the AKP in the run-up to the general election. He continued to employ a combative and conspiratorial rhetoric, vilifying opposition-party leaders, foreign governments, foreign media outlets and a range of domestic groups. By campaigning on behalf of the AKP, President Erdoğan flouted election laws as well as the constitutional requirement that the President remain impartial on party political matters.
- On 7th June 2015, Turkey held its 25th general elections in which 20 political parties and 165 independents took part. 48 million voters went to the ballot box (86.5% turnout) with AKP gaining 40.8%, the People’s Republic Party (CHP) gaining 25% and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) gaining 16.3% of the vote. The most significant gain in the election was by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which gained 13.1%, passing the 10 per cent threshold. As a result, the AKP lost its majority in government for the first time in 13 years, forcing it to explore a coalition or minority government. Since Erdoğan turned the general election into a referendum about his leadership and a vote for an executive presidency, the loss of the AKP’s majority is seen as a snub by the electorate to Erdoğan despite the party’s considerable share of the vote. On the other hand, despite being the smallest party in parliament, there is little doubt that the winner in this election was the HDP as it managed to overcome the parliamentary threshold of 10% for the first time in its history of championing the Kurdish cause.
- The Turkish government continues to pursue an assertive foreign policy towards neighbouring countries in the Middle East. Turkey became directly involved in the internal politics of countries such as Syria and Egypt and now has no Ambassador in Syria, Egypt and Israel.
- The government’s efforts to resolve Turkey’s Kurdish issue have stalled. While a number of symbolic steps were taken by the government, no tangible progress was achieved. The process has been frozen for now following critical statements and a surge in nationalist rhetoric by President Erdoğan in the run up to the general election earlier this year.