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Turkish President's Ruling Party Loses Majority In Parliament


Turkey's voters yesterday sent shockwaves through a ruling party that has dominated Turkish politics for over a decade. The ruling AKP is losing its majority in Parliament. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that a pro-Kurdish party has muscled its way onto the political scene.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: After a euphoric night of celebration by Turkish opposition parties, Turks woke today wondering just what the fallout of Sunday's vote will be. Some are only sorry the ruling AKP didn't lose more votes. Fifty-year-old Gul Selte, a longtime supporter of the secular opposition, says finally voters are pushing back against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's efforts to expand his authority.

GUL SELTE: (Through interpreter) I believe everyone's getting fed up. All he does is order people around. Journalists don't write that; you, shut up. You, eat this. You, have this many babies. It was awful. Let him behave like a president, sit in his palace and leave us alone.

KENYON: Turkey's president is supposed to be above the political fray, but Erdogan was by far the dominant public figure during the campaign and the vote is seen as an effort to rein him in. The big winner may have been the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, which looks set to take some 80 seats in the 550-seat Parliament, most of them coming out of the ruling party's share, analysts say. Party leader Selahattin Demirtas told supporters that Erdogan's ambition to amend the Constitution and increase presidential powers is over. Other Turks aren't so happy about the vote. They don't mind voters sending a message to Erdogan, but they worry about the impact a messy transition could have on the economy. Fifty-one-year-old Osman Taslak watched the Turkish stock market slide and the Turkish lira slump to record lows against the dollar today, and he shakes his head, saying a coalition government is the last thing Turkey needs now.

OSMAN TASLAK: (Through interpreter) We had coalitions in the '90s, the '80s, in the '70s, and it's always the same. Everyone looks out for himself and the result is more theft, more corruption.

KENYON: If a coalition is formed, it could also impact foreign policy, though perhaps not as dramatically as some worry. That's the view of former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Frank Ricciardone. He says those unhappy with the controversial parts of Turkey's Syria policy, such as supporting Islamist rebels, shouldn't expect major changes anytime soon.

RICCIARDONE: I imagine that the main thrust of Turkish foreign policy, towards Syria in particular, is likely to continue, partly for lack of really terrific alternatives from a Turkish perspective

KENYON: Coalition talks are likely to continue for weeks, meaning Turks can look forward to this period of uncertainty for some time to come. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.