Cars with colorful flags drive hooting through the night. Two old men hug and kiss each other on the cheeks like long lost brothers. Young men and women dance in a circle to the beat of oriental music. It is Turkey’s election night and HDP supporters in Berlin Kreuzberg are celebrating the results. The pro-Kurdish leftist Party HDP surpassed the 10% threshold with ease and received 80 out of 550 parliamentary seats.
This is a historic moment in Turkish democratic history for several reasons. First, for the first time after 13 years, the ruling party, AKP, must enter into a coalition. This means, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will not be able to change the Turkish constitution and implement a presidential system. These plans have been heavily criticized as serving the main purpose of strengthening Erdoğan’s own power and weakening democratic control mechanisms.
Second, these elections are a first landmark for the representation of minority groups. Not only did four christian delegates enter the parliament, but also the first Roma candidate secured a seat. But of course, the biggest success was celebrated by the Kurdish people, who after decades of struggle for their rights have entered the parliament for the first time. Yet, the HDP did not only receive votes from the Kurdish population but appealed to a much broader electorate of women’s rights activists, liberals, leftists and environmentalists. As Imran Ayata, author and campaigner, explained during European Alternatives’ election party, the HDP was able to create a new identity, a new “we” of the left groups and organizations after the Gezi Park protests. Hence, the 13% is also a victory for the people whose protest quickly grew from protecting a small park in Istanbul to a forceful demand for a new political culture.
“Our Gezi Park protests were not for nothing” said a smiling young woman. Yet, coalition building will be difficult and some commentators are already expecting reelections soon. But no matter how the next Turkish government will look, the political landscape will not be the same.