But short of "super majority" to rewrite Constitution

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development party led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Sunday's parliamentary election by a wide margin but fell short of a “super majority” that would have allowed it to rewrite the Constitution.

Known by its Turkish initials as the AK Party, it secured 50 per cent of the vote — the highest since it began contesting elections in 2002. But despite its strong showing, the AKP got only 326 seats in the 550-member Parliament. In the 2007 elections, it had won 341 seats despite fewer people voting for it.

The AKP is short of the “super majority” of 367, which would have allowed the new administration to go ahead with constitutional changes on its own.

The AKP also narrowly missed achieving the 330 mark, which would have enabled the government to directly put its proposals to vote in a national referendum.

Securing 26 per cent of the vote, the AKP's nearest rival, the secular Republican People's Party (CHP) won 135 seats, an improvement by 23 over the previous poll. Analysts say its incremental success can in large measure be attributed to its ability to recast itself as a social democratic party on European lines. Turkey's far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won 54 seats, a significant drop of 17 seats.

Choosing to field independent candidates, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) managed to win a respectable 35 seats — an achievement that is likely to put pressure on the AKP-led government to address Kurdish demands.

Despite failing to secure a large-enough majority, the AKP leadership has not given up on a new Constitution, based on a national consensus.

“The people gave us a message to build the new Constitution through consensus and negotiation,” said Mr. Erdogan in his victory address in Ankara.

“We will be seeking consensus with the main opposition, the opposition parties outside of Parliament, the media, NGOs, with academics, with anyone who has something to say.”

Apart from a strong economic performance, apparent in a drop in the unemployment rate and near nine per cent growth in the last year, Turkey's assertive foreign policy in West Asia has also shored up the AKP's popular appeal.

Women law-makers

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Erdogan said in his address that a vigorous foreign policy of engagement with Muslim countries in West Asia and Eastern Europe would continue under his watch.

“Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul, Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, the West Bank, Jerusalem won as much as Diyarbakir.”

Nearly 84.5 per cent of the 50-million-strong electorate cast their ballot in Sunday's vote. The new Parliament would have 78 women law-makers, compared to 50 in the last Parliament.

As in the previous election, the new class of Anatolian businessmen, conservative but committed to democracy and globalisation, boldly supported Mr. Erdogan. The highly influential pro-business Gulen movement, led by Turkish thinker Fethullah Gulen, also played a significant part in bolstering the AKP's electoral appeal, observers say.

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