18 September 2015, NYT: Opposition Journalists Under Assault in Turkey
6 August 2015, NYT: Turkey's Push Into War Is Seen as Erdogan's Political Strategy
NOV. 1, 2015
Erdogan's Party in Turkey Regains Parliamentary Majority
By TIM ARANGO and CEYLAN YEGINSU
ISTANBUL -- In a stunning electoral comeback, the Islamist party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regained its majority in Parliament on Sunday, ensuring Mr. Erdogan's continued dominance of Turkish politics after months of political turmoil and violence.
The result will permit Mr. Erdogan to remain the country's pre-eminent political figure while pushing the boundaries of the constitutional limits of the presidency, a largely ceremonial role.
With 99 percent of the votes counted, according to the state broadcaster TRT, the Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., captured 49.3 percent of the popular vote, giving it a solid majority of 316 seats in Parliament.
The victory for the A.K.P. came at great cost to the cohesion of Turkish society. Critics say Mr. Erdogan's divisive rhetoric, by denigrating opponents as terrorists or traitors, helped polarize the country. And a government crackdown on dissent in the lead-up to the vote, with mobs attacking newspaper offices  and a recent raid on a media conglomerate opposed to the government, raised concerns abroad about Turkey's commitment to democracy.
The outcome was also a spectacular upset given that most polls had predicted a result similar to June's national election, which had denied the A.K.P. a parliamentary majority for the first time in more than a decade.
The victory seemed to validate Mr. Erdogan's electoral strategy of turning more nationalist, and taking a harder line  with Kurdish militants in the southeast, where a long-running war resumed in recent months. Much of the party's gains seemed to come at the expense of the far-right nationalist party, as voters switched to the A.K.P.
"The gamble has seemed to work," said Suat Kiniklioglu, the executive director of the Center for Strategic Communication, a research organization in Ankara. Mr. Kiniklioglu, a former lawmaker in Mr. Erdogan's party who has become a sharp critic of his policies, said, "It's a huge success for the A.K.P."
The election, a reprise of June's vote, which failed to produce a coalition government after weeks of talks, came after five months of violence and political instability. Nigar Goksel, the Turkey analyst for the International Crisis Group, said the voting reflected "the yearning for stability and the end to this limbo."
In a victory speech from the balcony of the A.K.P.'s headquarters in Ankara early Monday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, "Let's work together toward a Turkey where conflict, tension and polarization are nonexistent and everyone salutes each other in peace."
He added, "I'm calling on all parties entering Parliament to form a new civilian national constitution," a reference to Mr. Erdogan's ambitions to concentrate more power in an executive presidency.
The election results will return the country to single-party rule, and thus achieve a measure of stability by foreclosing the possibility of a fractious coalition, but it is unlikely to unite what has become a deeply polarized country, with roughly half of the population opposed to Mr. Erdogan and his party.
The vote, though close, also affirmed the political rise of Turkey's long-oppressed Kurds: Once again the Kurdish-dominated Peoples' Democratic Party, or H.D.P., surpassed a 10 percent legal threshold to enter Parliament. But the H.D.P. saw its vote decline, to a little over 10 percent on Sunday from about 13 percent in June, as some religious Kurds seemed to switch to the A.K.P.
Kurdish celebrations this time were tempered, though, partly because of the loss of votes and partly by the continuing war between the Turkish state and the militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or P.K.K.
H.D.P. officials said there would be no celebrations in honor of those who died in a terrorist attack  recently in Ankara, the capital, that killed mostly Kurds.
And in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish-majority city in Turkey, there were street protests as Kurds angry about the vote losses clashed with the police, who fired tear gas at the crowd, according to Reuters.
In recent months, Turks have felt whipsawed, as they have watched their nation come to resemble the chaotic countries of the Middle East more than the model of Islamic democracy that many Turks thought their country to be.
A decades-long war with Kurdish militants in the southeast resumed, killing hundreds. Two large-scale terrorist attacks blamed on the Islamic State, including the one in Ankara, killed more than 100 people. Turkey's once-booming economy, perhaps Mr. Erdogan's signature accomplishment, faltered, as did the Turkish lira, as investors fretted over the country's future.
In seeking a comeback at the polls, Mr. Erdogan, who as president is supposed to be above partisan politics, and Mr. Davutoglu, the official head of the party, pushed a simple message: Invoking fears of the 1990s, a decade defined by shaky coalition governments and violence, they said a vote for them was a vote for stability.
Mr. Erdogan, while casting his vote on Sunday in Uskudar, a conservative district on the Asian side of Istanbul where he owns a home, said, "I hope our nation makes its choice for stability. We must all respect the result of the national will."
For Mr. Erdogan's core constituency of religious conservatives, and apparently many more this time around at polls, the message resonated.
"I will vote for the A.K.P. because in this environment of chaos we need a strong government," said Bertan Aydin, 28, a student and taxi driver in Istanbul, just before voting on Sunday. "Coalition governments don't work. They will only drag us backward."
Voter turnout was high -- more than 85 percent cast ballots -- despite Election Day coming at the end of a four-day holiday for Turkey's Republic Day.
Many Turks were fatigued after so many elections -- in addition to the June vote, last year Turks voted for president and for local municipalities -- but they came out, nonetheless, hoping at the very least that the result would bring some stability.
"All the elections over the past year have brought the people against one another, and the country has become a war zone," said Zeynep Cetindemir, 46, a business consultant in Istanbul who voted for the main secular party, the Republican People's Party, or C.H.P. "We need to unite for peace."
Cicek Tuzmen, an architect who voted for the C.H.P. in Istanbul's Sariyer district, a secular stronghold, said, "Today I'm voting for peace. Peace and stability. That's all I hope for."
While the election was hailed as historic by many analysts, it never held the possibility of a decisive transfer of power, as Mr. Erdogan's term as president does not expire until 2019, and it was a certainty that his party would still win the largest share of votes. Rather, the many opponents of the A.K.P. -- roughly 60 percent of the country voted against the party in June -- hoped the outcome would result in power sharing among Turkey's political parties and reduced power for Mr. Erdogan and the A.K.P.
Instead, Sunday's vote secured the power of Mr. Erdogan and the A.K.P. for many more years, and those who were hoping to see the beginning of the end of an era were left stunned.
"I think we are all trying to digest it right now," Mr. Kiniklioglu said. "It's unclear what it means for the opposition and the rest of the country."
He added, "It's rather shocking for many people."
The opposition to Mr. Erdogan, who in his early years in power counted on the support of many liberals, found its voice in widespread street protests in 2013 that at the time represented a serious challenge to his rule. A corruption scandal involving many in his inner circle erupted later that year, and many felt that they were witnessing the slow decline of the A.K.P.'s power, a notion validated by the June election.
Now, though, that trajectory -- of the A.K.P. seeming to slowly lose its grip over Turkey -- has been emphatically interrupted by Sunday's victory.
"It seems that Erdogan's tactics of war and chaos have worked," said Can Yuksel, an activist who took part in the protests two years ago. "It's disappointing because this result comes at the expense of freedom, rule of law and democracy."