The parliamentary elections in Turkey, which saw the loss of majority support for the ruling AKP, might complicate the Kremlin’s plans to implement the Turkish Stream pipeline project.
Selahattin Demirtas, right, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, delivers a speech from the top of his election campaign bus at a rally in Istanbul, Turkey, ahead of the general election. Photo: AP
For a different take read: "After Turkey's elections, Russia's Turkish Stream still on-stream"
On June 7, parliamentary elections were held in the Republic of Turkey. Although the ruling political party – the Party of Justice and Development (AKP) - led the elections by receiving 41 percent of total votes, it is the first time that its popular support decreased, by more than 9 percent. More importantly, the party lost its majority in the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
The secularist/social democrat Republican People’s Party (CHP) came in second, getting the support of 25 percent of the electorate. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) followed with 16 percent of the vote. Lastly, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was able to exceed the 10 percent threshold by securing more than 13 percent of total votes.
According to these results, it is the first time since 2002 that the era of one-party government seems to be over in Turkey. A coalition is likely to be formed unless a minority government of the AKP could be formed to call early elections.
In addition to the ruling AKP, the ex-leader of AKP and now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is also seen as the loser of the latest elections. His political aim of transforming Turkey into a super-presidency like in Russia failed. An increasing opposition has been observed in society to his authoritarian attitude.
Erdoğan’s popularity rate, which was 52 percent a year ago, began to decline sooner than expected. He is losing power even in his former party and the legitimacy of his current position is being questioned now.
Which opposition parties in Turkey are gaining influence?
The main opposition parties (the CHP and MHP) were not so successful, either, and the former lost share and seats in the Parliament. Those parties were not capable of persuading the electorate amid big corruption claims and anti-democratic rule of the current government. With their leadership structures, they don’t give much hope to the electorate.
The only winner of the elections is the pro-Kurdish HDP, which doubled its share of the votes from 6.5 percent to over 13 percent. Besides its classical secular vote base in eastern parts of the country, HDP won the overwhelming support of religious Kurds, who were voting for AKP before. Now, from the Turkish-Georgian boundary to the Turkish-Syrian border, the HDP is the dominant power. Moreover, it also increased its votes in the western part of the country.
In general, during the campaign period, mainstream media groups in Turkey supported the HDP and, for some, this played an important role in the political success of the HDP. This might seem quite interesting at first glance but, by taking into consideration the influence of Western powers in Turkey and Washington’s support of HDP, this is not surprising.
The secular Kurds are seen as a natural ally for most Western capitals (including the terrorist group of PKK, which shares deep roots with the HDP) in the struggle against religious fundamentalism in the Middle East. For the same powers, even a big and free Kurdistan in the region is on the political agenda under the project of the Greater Middle East Initiative. Thus, the territorial integrity of Turkey might be now under threat and this is the main result of the elections.
The impact of elections on Russian-Turkish relations
Regarding the repercussions of the latest elections on Turkish-Russian relations, the results will affect ongoing relations negatively since the pro-Kurdish party, with its strong support from the West, could destabilize the country and this, in turn, could harm the economic interests of Russia in Turkey.
One should also observe that Erdoğan, who has started to move closer to Moscow in recent months and is a personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is losing power in Turkey. Moreover, all other opposition parties and some groups within AKP that are hostile to Erdoğan, are also cautious about relations with Russia.
Most importantly, with the entrance of HDP to the Parliament with 80 deputies out of 550, a one-party and stable government is not possible in the long run. The coalitions will be politically more fragile against foreign pressures in this new Turkish balance of power. Therefore, a coalition government is unlikely to take strategic decisions easily for projects like the Turkish Stream pipeline.
Here it is important to note that Turkish-Russian relations are based more on economic benefits and pragmatism rather than a strategic partnership. Therefore, gas price negotiations between Gazprom and Botaş could give positive results as well as the construction of the first line of the Turkish Stream pipeline project (15.75 bcm), which is envisaged to supply only the Turkish domestic market.
However, the situation is different for the remaining capacity of the project (47.25 bcm) that is designed to reach the European market. It can be predicted that, in a more Western-oriented and fragile Ankara, Russia’s aim to avoid Ukrainian transit risks by pumping its gas to Europe via Turkish territory would be much more difficult.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.