I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of this. In a nutshell, they’ve been trending away from secularism and towards Islamism for years, especially since Erdogan’s party came to power. It came to a head in April when Abdullah Gul, Erdogan’s right-hand man and a devout Muslim, was nominated for president, prompting giant protests and a walkout by secularist MPs which denied Gul the two-thirds quorum and vote he needed in parliament to be elected. Hence the importance of today’s elections: would the ruling party, AKP, get the 367 of the 550 available seats it needed to install this fundie as guardian of Turkey’s secular state?
Results: probably. AKP actually ended up losing seats, picking up 332 this time compared to the 363 they started with, but their share of the vote increased from 34.3% in 2002 to somewhere between 45% and 48% today. (The quirk by which they lost seats is due, per Barry Rubin, to the fact that additional parties qualified for this election.) They need only 35 more MPs to push Gul through with the requisite two-thirds; given the fact that their support just increased by double digits, they should be able to pressure one of the minority parties into joining them. That’ll leave Gul’s fate in the hands of the Turkish military, which is charged constitutionally with protecting secularism. Will they stage a coup or back down in the face of a popular mandate?
The leader of the nationalist party, which took 85 seats, has already hinted that he’ll support Erdogan’s choice for president. Protests notwithstanding, Erdogan says he still favors Gul.
Update: They’re creeping up on 50%.
With 57 percent of the national vote counted, Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development party had taken more than 48 percent of the vote, far higher than the 18 percent garnered by the secular opposition Republican People’s Party and the 14 percent taken by the Nationalist Action Party.
The results, broadcast on Turkish television at 8 p.m. local time, represent a slap to the state establishment, whose secular and nationalist parties were predicting that voters would punish Mr. Erdogan’s party for trying to push what they said was an Islamic agenda.