It has been a rude wake-up call for the man who many feel is something of a modern-day potentate.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expecting to coast along quite comfortably in the June 7 elections with a two-thirds majority to change the system and give more powers to the president.
But his Justice and Development Party (AKP) has not managed to even cross the half-way mark. The verdict leaves little to doubt — the people are not pleased with ‘Sultan Erdogan’.
His critics have often accused Mr Erdogan of acting like a modern-day Ottoman sultan. Despite desperate attempts to convince people that an international conspiracy was afoot to weaken Turkey, the people voted for the more secular parties. The AKP might be the single-largest party, but the clear winner here is the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and its leader Selahattin Demirtas.
The verdict will receive mixed reactions across the world. On the one hand the election result is reassuring — Mr Erdogan’s ambitions of changing Turkey, which is also a Nato member, into a semi-autocratic state, will have to wait for now.
According to Mr Demirtas, “the discussion of executive presidency and dictatorship has come to an end in Turkey with these elections”. Mr Erdogan’s defeat also signals a major blow to political Islam, something that will be noted with trepidation by Arab leaders.
On the other hand, there is reason for concern. With a hung parliament Turkey is looking at a summer of political uncertainty and possible instability. With ISIS at its borders, the poll verdict should not hinder Turkey’s fight against the terror group. The Erdogan government has been able to check the ISIS forces at its border with both Syria and Iraq.
Terror groups, especially ISIS, will be quick to exploit this development in Turkey. The recent publication of Konstantiniyye — an online Turkish publication by pro-ISIS groups, especially targeting Turkish Muslims — is proof of the terror group’s long-term vision for Turkey.
Sunday’s election has sent out a clear message — Turkey has rejected Mr Erdogan’s Islamisation of politics. This, along with the impressive debut of the HDP, shows that Kemalism is still relevant. Mr Erdogan could form a minority government or the opposition parties could manage to stitch together a coalition or early elections could be called — whichever way the dice rolls, a lot rides on the next government in Ankara.