|AKP supporters celebrate in Istanbul after results suggested the party was on course for another election win [EPA]|
Hundreds of people swarmed into Taksim Square, the main meeting place in central Istanbul, on Sunday night, minutes after news of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s third straight election victory was announced through loudspeakers.
Cars circled the crowds with their horns blaring, as people locked arms and started dancing to music, courtesy of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) election campaign soundtrack.
“We should all be celebrating! After months of debates, political campaigns and watching NTV (a Turkish news channel), Turkey has held an election that the world should respect,” said Ali Cerhan, a 28-year-old small business owner.
“A democratic Turkey is well and truly alive.”
But not everyone was in the mood for partying as projections suggested the AKP would fall short of the 330-seat parliamentary majority that would have allowed it to change the constitution.
Just a few metres away, a group sat, subdued and quiet, in Saray cafe, staring at the television mounted on the wall, waiting for the re-elected prime minister to give his victory speech on the balcony outside the AKP’s Ankara headquarters.
“I suppose it’s not so bad,” Ali Hacip, a 38-year-old graduate student and AKP supporter, said while shaking his head.
“It simply means that the parties will have to debate the constitution and speak to one another about the issue for a little while longer.”
‘A test for all of Turkey’
Among them were two supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“With only 25.9 per cent of the vote we need to realise that the real test for the CHP comes now, we need to perform well opposite the AKP when debating our constitution,” Emine Artal, a nursery school teacher, said while sipping her apple tea.
“I would even go as far as to say that it will be a test for all of Turkey.”
Her 54-year-old husband, Yilmaz, an urban planner, said the square symbolised the divisions within Turkey “very powerfully”.
“Over there you have euphoria, over here reflection. In a nation with around 80 million people or so, we need to be realistic. Is there an outcome that could please all of us? It’s doubtful.”
Others nod in agreement.
“Why so glum? Come join us!” a member of the crowd from the other side of the “divide” called out in jubilation. “No thanks,” murmured Hacip and his friends in unison.
She shrugged and disappeared into the dancing crowds as thousands of yellow, orange, blue and white party streamers fell from the sky.
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