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Baris Karaagac of Trent University says the push for constitutional changes in Parliament was a critical issue in this election for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was hoping to institute a Presidential system

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. In the Turkish elections on Sunday with almost all of the ballots counted, the AKP has secured a majority by taking 50 percent of the vote, that is 325 of the 550-seat parliament. That is a far higher margin of victory than was expected. The leftist pro-Kurdish HDP surpassed the 10 percent threshold necessary to be in parliament, but its support dipped from the 13 percent it secured in June to just 10 percent, or just over 10 percent. Now joining me from Toronto to discuss all of this is Baris Karaagac. He’s a lecturer in international development studies at Trent University in Ontario. He’s also the editor of the book Accumulations, Crises and Struggles: Capital and Labor in Contemporary Capitalism. Baris, thank you so much for joining us on this Sunday evening. BARIS KARAAGAC: Hello, Sharmini. Thanks for having me. PERIES: So Baris, what type of a majority did they get, and what does it all mean? KARAAGAC: Well, it is a clear majority. This is a sad day, a tragic day for progressive forces in Turkey. The AKP after its failure, actually, in the June elections, this time was able to capture 49.4 percent of the popular vote, which gives the party 316 members of the parliament. This is an increase of 58 [seats], and 8.5 percent since last June. This is, as I said, this is a clear majority. However, the AKP wanted at least 330 members this time so that it could take the proposal to make constitutional changes, so a referendum, which would be decided, the outcome which would be decided by the Turkish public. So right now the AKP is 14 members short of such a majority. However, they will be able to form a majority government in the new parliament. And on the losing side of the election we see two parties. The biggest losers, the biggest loser of this election, has been the MHP, the ultra-nationalist/fascist party, which lost 39 of its 80 members. This [first] decline in its popular vote by 4.4 percent. And the other loser has been the pro-Kurdish HDP party, which lost 21 of its 80 members. And this again corresponds to the fall by 2.4 percent in its vote percentage. The CHP, the social democratic party, has increased its MPs by two while maintaining its voter percentage. PERIES: Baris, the escalation of violence in Turkey between the last election and now has been quite bad in terms of the attack on the peace rally in Ankara earlier this month as well as late summer, when the students who had gathered at a student center were also attacked with the, with the suicide bomber. And all of this creates a condition in a country where people feel threatened by such violence, and insecure. And these are the very times they don’t want to actually vote in a change in government. What are your thoughts on that? KARAAGAC: Well, in our previous talks we talked about the importance of the escalation of violence and its possible consequences for the country. And then we also said that Erdogan and the AKP were playing a very dangerous game in the country and in the neighboring countries. But it seems that this escalation of violence has benefited the party. The instability that has arisen out of this violence has significantly benefited the AKP. Actually, I would like to refer towards a poll, or three polls conducted by Ipsos since last May. In May 2015, when asked, 28 percent of the Turkish public indicated that the greatest problem Turkey was facing is unemployment. Particularly among the youth, unemployment has become a huge problem, particularly since the beginning of the, the great recession, 2007-2008. And ten percent indicated that it was general economic problems. Not enough money. And only 14 percent said it was the peace process, that process that had been going on between the Turkish state and the, the Kurdish movement, to reach a peaceful conclusion regarding the Kurdish issue. But it was only 14 percent who saw this as a main issue in Turkish politics. And in July, we see the beginnings, or the revival of, armed conflict which had been dormant for about two years between the Turkish state and the armed Kurdish forces. Right after this in August, we see that 47 percent of the population when asked said the biggest problem the country’s facing is terror–or so-called terror and the peace process. And only 12 percent, a fall from 28, indicated that it was unemployment. In September, [inaud.] the percentage of 72 said it’s the peace process and the so-called terror. So Erdogan and the AKP have been very successful at manipulating the Turkish public through, in this case, particularly chauvinistic nationalism. And this explains to a great extent why the ultranationalist/fascist MHP lost 4 percent of its vote to the AKP. PERIES: Now, Baris, what does this mean to the HDP and where will they stand in terms of being able to influence any of the decisions being made in parliament? KARAAGAC: [A lot] of people, they are interviewing–I have listened to speeches of the party members, including of the co-chairs, co-leaders of the HDP. And they [inaud.] said, we will continue to fight against fascism. But he added, we will also continue to fight for peace. We will continue to demand peace. So HDP, I think now there’s clarity that as long as there’s violence, as long as there’s instability, this benefits the AKP. So HDP, I think, will continue to press for, push for peace, or a peaceful solution, or peaceful conclusion to the Kurdish issue that has been, that has cost tens of thousands of lives in Turkey since 1984. But it also, this depends on what strategy President Erdogan and the Prime Minister Davutoglu will be following in the upcoming months and years. Particularly vis-a-vis the HDP. PERIES: All right, Baris. I thank you so much for joining us today. KARAAGAC: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Sharmini. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Baris Karaagac is a lecturer in International Development Studies at Trent University, in Ontario. He is also the editor of the book Accumulations, Crises and Struggles: Capital and Labour in Contemporary Capitalism.