Back in June, Turkish voters put President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s feet to the fire by stripping his Justice and Development Party (AKP) allies of their parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years. Many Turkey-watchers began writing Erdogan’s political obituary. But only five short months after that electoral setback, Erdogan and his AKP allies are back on top, after winning an outright majority in elections Nov. 1. In doing so, they have demonstrated their ability to swiftly and efficiently mobilize their conservative base in strategic urban areas and across the Anatolian heartland, while outmaneuvering their political adversaries at every turn.
This was no easy accomplishment when you consider the severe headwinds Erdogan and the AKP were facing in this election. Political momentum is something that can easily be lost and hard to gain back. After the AKP lost its majority, there was no indication that enough voters were going to change their minds a second time around. Opinion polls predicted the AKP would get around 41.5 percent of the votes, nowhere near a majority.
Driving those polls was the fact that Turkey’s economy and security situation, the two most important issues for voters, have trended downward in recent years, to the detriment of the AKP. Falling exports, a depreciating currency, rising inflation, slowing consumer confidence, declining private investment and political pressure by the AKP on the Turkish Central Bank have dented the party’s image as astute economic managers. At the same time, the resumption of violence between the Turkish military and the outlawed militant Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), combined with terrorist bombings in the capital, Ankara, and the border town of Suruc—likely the work of the self-proclaimed Islamic State—have left citizens psychologically scarred.