Turkey under Erdogan: the 2018 Turkish General Elections

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Written by Coco Chai

On June 24th, 2018, Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was elected President of Turkey. This presidential election marked the end of the parliamentary system of the Turkish government as it removed the office of Prime Minister and replaced it with an executive presidency. Through this election, the AKP achieved its longtime goal of turning the Turkish governmental system into a presidential system.

The Turkish presidential election had a majoritarian electoral system, in which one candidate must obtain more than 50% of the popular vote in order to be elected. If no candidate obtains the majority of the votes in the first round, the election will advance to a second round with the two candidates who received the two highest amounts of votes in the first round.1 Six candidates ran for the office of President in this election. They were Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incumbent president at the time and the elected president, from the AKP, Muharrem Ince from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Selahattin Demirtas from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Meral Aksener from the IYi Party, Temel Karamollaoglu from the Felicity Party, and Dogu Perincek from the Patriotic Party. Erdogan received 52.59% of the vote, earning an outright victory without having the election advance to the second round. Erdogan’s main opposition came from Ince, who won 30.64% of the vote. Coming in third place was Demirtas with 8.4% of the vote.2

Erdogan was most popular in the northeastern part of the country. In Bayburt, for example, Erdogan won 82.1% of the vote.3 This was largely due to his championing of the conservative Islam cause. In 2013, for instance, Erdogan’s government repealed a law that had banned female civil servants from wearing hijabs for decades. The conservative and religious side of Turkey deeply resonated with Erdogan’s campaign, and Erdogan was seen among his supporters as “one of the people,” as opposed to the old secular elite.4 Ince’s votes were mostly generated from western Turkey, where the population supported a more westernized and secular ideology — one that Erdogan’s supporters abhorred.5 The southeastern region of Turkey leaned heavily towards the HDP candidate Demirtas since the Kurdish population strongly identified with the HDP’s pro-minority politics.6

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey also held a parliamentary election on the same day as the presidential election, and the electoral rules followed the proportional representation system. Turkey had a total of 87 electoral districts, each electing a certain number of Members of Parliament proportional to the size of its population, and the percentage of votes a party received converted to a certain amount of seats in Parliament. The total number of seats in Parliament was increased from 550 to 600 according to constitutional amendments approved in 2017. Previously, the ruling party AKP firmly controlled Parliament by holding 316 seats.7 During this election, however, the AKP won 295 seats, falling short of the 301 seats needed for a majority. Nevertheless, the AKP formed an alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) — the People’s Alliance, and they together hold 344 seats, controlling the majority of Parliament. The second biggest alliance in Parliament, the Nation Alliance, consisting of the CHP, the IYi Party, and the Felicity Party, won a total of 189 seats.8

The major implication of this presidential election is that it gave the president sweeping new powers and replaced the parliamentary system of the Turkish government with a presidential system. In 2017, the AKP and its ally, the MHP, proposed a constitutional referendum, which aimed to abolish the office of Prime Minister, give the president more executive power, and reduce the power of Parliament. The “Yes” vote eventually won the majority, setting an initial presidential election date for November 3rd, 2019.9 However, in April 2018, the AKP called for the election to be held early on June 24th, 2018 — a strategic move intended to reduce the effects of Turkey’s economic and political instabilities on the electoral outcome and to also catch an increasingly cohesive opposition off-guard.The AKP’s heavy crackdown on media also greatly contributed to Erdogan’s victory.10  After the election, Erdogan’s new executive powers include the power to declare a state of emergency, which used to conducted by the cabinet, the power to issue presidential decrees, and the power to directly prepare the annual budget. Already a dictator, and with even greater power now, Erdogan is likely to establish an autocracy, marking the end of democracy in Turkey.


Cupolo, Diego. “The Fate of Turkey’s Democracy Lies with the Kurds”. The Atlantic. Published June 23, 2018. Last Accessed April 19, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/turkey-erdogan-kurds-vote-hdp-akp/563573/

Isikara, Guney. “Six Take Aways From the Turkish Elections”. Jacobin. Published June 29, 2018. Last accessed April 19, 2019. https://jacobinmag.com/2018/06/six-takeaways-from-the-turkish-elections

Lowen, Mark. “Erdogan’s Turkey”. BBC. Published 13 April 2017. Last accessed April 19, 2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/Erdogans_Turkey

Pavey, Safak. “The Man Who Could Topple Erdogan”. The New York Times. Published June 19, 2018. Last accessed April 19, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/opinion/ince-erdogan-turkey-election.html

“Preliminary results in the Turkish presidential election of 2018”. Statitia. Published June 24, 2018. Last accessed April 19, 2019 https://www.statista.com/statistics/873950/turkish-presidential-election-results/

Uras, Umut. “Turkey election: All you need to know about the June 24 polls”. Al Jazeera. Published June 24, 2018. Last accessed April 18, 2019 https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2018/06/turkey-elections-june-24-polls-180611104841735.html

“Who won Turkey? Implications from Erdogan’s snap elections”. The Brookings Institution. Published June 27, 2018. Last accessed April 19, 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/events/who-won-turkey-implications-from-erdogans-snap-elections/


  1. Umut Uras, “Turkey election: All you need to know about the June 24 polls,” Al Jazeera, published June 24, 2018, last accessed April 18, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2018/06/turkey-elections-june-24-polls-180611104841735.html
  2. “Preliminary results in the Turkish presidential election of 2018,” Statitia, published June 24, 2018, last accessed April 19, 2019, https://www.statista.com/statistics/873950/turkish-presidential-election-results/
  3. Ibid.
  4. Mark Lowen, “Erdogan’s Turkey,” BBC, published April 13, 2017, last accessed April 19, 2019, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/Erdogans_Turkey
  5. Safak Pavey, “The Man Who Could Topple Erdogan,” The New York Times, published June 19, 2018, last accessed April 19, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/opinion/ince-erdogan-turkey-election.html
  6. Diego Cupolo, “The Fate of Turkey’s Democracy Lies with the Kurds,” The Atlantic, published June 23, 2018, last accessed April 19, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/turkey-erdogan-kurds-vote-hdp-akp/563573/
  7. Uras 2018.
  8. Guney Isikara, “Six Take Aways From the Turkish Elections,” Jacobin, published June 29, 2018, last accessed April 19, 2019, https://jacobinmag.com/2018/06/six-takeaways-from-the-turkish-elections
  9. Lowen 2017.
  10. “Who won Turkey? Implications from Erdogan’s snap elections,” The Brookings Institution, published June 27, 2018, last accessed April 19, 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/events/who-won-turkey-implications-from-erdogans-snap-elections/