Turkey's Islamist party, the AKP, lost its thirteen-year parliamentary majority on Sunday, negating President Recep Erdogan’s efforts to boost his power by altering the constitution to increase the influence of the presidency. While receiving 41% of the vote, more than any other party, the AKP will not have the ability to boost Erdogan’s power by changing the constitution, which requires the support of two thirds of the parliament. Erdogan’s critics feared that granting him more power would further curtail civil liberties. A major factor in the AKP’s loss of seats was the emergence of a progressive, Kurdish party (HDP) that crossed the 10% electoral threshold and will enter parliament for the first time. The party’s leader, Selahattin Demirtas, stated that “the debate about the presidency, the debate about dictatorship, is over. Turkey narrowly averted a disaster.”
The parliamentary elections were widely seen as a referendum on Erdogan, who has become increasingly authoritarian and has cracked down on freedoms of press and speech. Journalists have been arrested for criticizing the government, and the judiciary and police have been purged for investigating members of the AKP accused of corruption. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2013, Turkey imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the world. Erdogan has attempted to restrict social media and has made several statements against gender equality. Because the three main opposition parties have ruled out entering into a coalition with the AKP, the Islamist party may try to form a minority government or Turkey may have to call early elections.
Under AKP rule, relations with the United States have been strained, while relations with Israel have deteriorated. Turkey has refused to allow its territory to serve as a base for US operations against ISIL and Turkey has been accused of turning a blind eye to the flow of foreign fighters across its borders into Syria. Furthermore, Turkey has become a safe haven for Hamas leaders actively involved in organizing terror attacks against Israeli civilians, and Erdogan has promoted anti-Semitic tropes and accused Israel of attempting to commit genocide.