NEW: The ruling Justice and Development Party does not win a majority of seats
The loss is a blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plan to consolidate power
A pro-Kurdish party makes historic gains in the election and a place in parliament
Turkey’s ruling party won the most seats in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, but it fell short of the majority needed to rule without forming a coalition with other parties.
With 98% of votes in Turkey’s parliamentary elections tabulated, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 41% of the vote, or 259 of the 550 seats up for grabs, semi-official Anadolu news agency reported.
The parliamentary elections were expected to bring about drastic change in Turkey. But few anticipated that the country’s early election results would signal the end of the dominance the AKP has enjoyed since it came to power.
For the first time since it came to power in 2002, the socially conservative AKP will likely have to form a coalition government. This is not an easy challenge, given that two opposition parties vowed in their campaigns that they would not be part of a coalition. But this is a country where politics can be unpredictable.
Power shift now in doubt
Erdogan’s party had looked to win 330 seats, which would allow it to carry out a referendum for constitutional changes without needing votes from other parties.
Having fallen short of that majority, Erdogan’s proposal to shift power from the Prime Minister’s Office to the president is in doubt now.
Erdogan became the country’s first directly elected President last year after serving three terms as Prime Minister as the head of the AKP. He lost no time in signaling he would like to see more powers transferred to the presidential palace.
The AKP, according to some analysts, could also call for early parliamentary elections, which would once again raise the potential for more political turmoil and economic instability.
Erdogan has been accused of autocratic tendencies, corruption and extravagance. The 1,000 room-plus palace he built on publicly protected land is just one popular example.
Erdogan has also been heavily criticized for failing to protect women’s and human rights, curbing freedom of speech and attempting to curb Turkey’s secular identity.
Pro-Kurdish party makes historic gains
Erdogan’s unpopularity may have contributed to to a historic finish for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, the HDP.
The HDP was seeking at least 10% of the vote to gain seats in parliament. Early polls put the party within the margin error, but the HDP appeared poised to easily surpass that threshold, with about 12% of the vote.
“The HDP’s entry has given Turkey breathing time to find a solution to the anomaly … Erdogan has been stretching and stressing the system,” said Suat Kiniklioglu, a former member of the AKP.
Voters traditionally skeptical of Kurdish parties strategically voted for the HDP knowing the party’s entry to parliament could hamper Erdogan’s presidential ambitions.
“To those who loaned us their votes to open up the path for the HDP’s democratic path, we will not embarrass you,” said Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the HDP, in a victory speech on Sunday.
But others are drawn to the HDP because they believe that the party represents an exciting opportunity for change.
Over the years, the HDP has evolved into a more inclusive entity, able to appeal to non-Kurdish secular voters such as 24-year-old Yagmur Yilmaz.
Yilmaz, student and self-described secular, leftist woman, she says she is a staunch supporter of the HDP because she believes they are a party that will safeguard human rights.
“There is a change going on and that is really exciting for me, for everyone really” Yilmaz said.
CNN’s Arwa Damon and Gul Tuysuz reported from Istanbul, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London.