AK party is back on stage with force and responsibility

Relieved from the pressure, the party is more likely to take steps to reduce the level of political polarisation.

The AK party has focused on the stability, security, prosperity that the single party government could deliver for them, writes Dalay [Reuters]

Unlike the expectations, Turkey’s governing Justice and Development (AK party) won a landslide victory in the November 1 election. It increased its votes by approximately 9 percent, hence significantly surpassing even its pre-June 7 election standing.

Numerically speaking, in the June election, the AK party lost around three million votes, which were rightly regarded as a major setback for the party. But in the November election, the party added approximately 4.6 million new voters into its fold. In another words, between the June 7 and November 1 elections, the party has increased its votes by one million each month, a spectacular achievement.

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Regaining votes

More importantly, this increase did not occur as a result of a certain segment of society flocking into the AK party’s ranks and files in droves. Instead, the AK party has increased its votes all across Turkey.

It gained back a chunk of pious Kurds’ votes which it lost to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the June 7 elections. It also received a significant number of votes from Turkish nationalist Nationalist Action Party (MHP), and other small Islamist and nationalist parties.

It benefitted from the high electoral turnout and increased its votes among the youth. It is the winner in all seven geographic regions of Turkey, including the secularist stronghold Aegean and the Kurdish nationalist-dominated east and southeast Anatolia.

Relieved from the pressure of the elections and once again endowed with the feeling of confidence and security, the governing AK party is more likely to take steps to reduce the level of political polarisation in the country.


By any account, the AK party achieved a stunning victory and made a true comeback by almost replicating the 2011 general election’s outcome in which it received 49.8 percent of the votes and which is regarded as the zenith of its power.

At this stage, it is vital to ask the following two questions: What accounts for such a stunning victory for the AK party? Second, what does it mean for Turkey and its most pressing issues?


Two factors are crucial to account for the party’s success: The AK party’s ability to learn and to draw lessons from its failures, and the voters’ willingness to reconsider their decisions once the party undertook the necessary corrections.

As a relatively young party, founded in 2001, the AK party is a learning organisation. In the aftermath of the June 7 elections in which it received almost 41 percent of votes, 16 points ahead of its closest competitor, it was the only party that undertook the most significant level of soul-searching.

It convened many meetings with party officials, intellectuals, civil society organisations and ordinary people to denote the causes of its electoral loss. It was capable of conveying the message to the people that their message had been received by the party.

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As a corollary, before the June 7 elections, the theme that was associated with the AK party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the most was that if rewarded with the necessary super-majority, they would change Turkey’s parliamentary political system into an executive presidency.

In addition, another factor that has been widely cited as a cause for the party’s failure in June, was that Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu were striking different chords; hence the party was not able to deliver a clear and coherent message to the people. To some extent, it seemed that there was a dual leadership working at cross purposes.

Once the causes of the party’s ills were identified, it then swiftly corrected both of these factors in the aftermath of the June elections. For instance, it dropped its intention to introduce the executive presidency from its agenda. People did not directly relate to this demand.

Instead, the AK party has focused on the stability, security, prosperity that a single-party government (in contrast to an unstable coalition government) could deliver for them.

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These themes were directly touching people’s lives and they resonated with them. The uncertainty and instability that ensued in the aftermath of the June election has only confirmed and strengthened the AK party’s new theme and narrative.

Moreover, Erdogan and Davutoglu struck the same chord prior to the November 1 election.

These corrections were well-received by the voters. In fact, it is this propensity of the performance-focused voters to reconsider their decisions that is the guarantee for Turkey’s democracy. It punishes when it feels that the party is straying away from the path and then rewards once it thinks that the party is back on track and doing the right things.

The combination of the existence of a learning organisation and performance-focused voters are the main determinants behind the AK party’s victory on November 1.

Pressing issues

There will be some level of reinvigoration in the Kurdish peace process, but not in its previous form or structure. Developments in Syria, particularly in the Kurdish part of Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) propensity to return to the conflict, have led the government to reconsider the previous premises of the peace process, and the means to achieve it.

In this regard, it is plausible to expect that the party will put the negotiating settlement scheme with the PKK on hold until some kind of clarification and common understanding emerges between the two sides in the Kurdish part of Syria.

During this time period, it is more likely that the AK party will aim to accommodate some of the Kurdish demands within a broader and more general democratisation programme, which will directly aim at the Kurdish citizens, rather than Kurdish political groups.


This method is unlikely to provide a solution to Turkey’s Kurdish question in earnest. But as stated above, this is a transitional solution rather than long-lasting one.

Relieved from the pressure of the elections and once again endowed with the feeling of confidence and security, the governing AK party is more likely to take steps to reduce the level of political polarisation in the country.

Highly conciliatory political language adopted by the prime minister, the president, and the party officials since the announcement of the election results, testifies to the party’s intentions.

Though language is important, actions are even more so. Therefore, the party needs to complement its language with political openings.

Galip Dalay is senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish Affairs at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, and research director at Al Sharq Forum.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.