"The discussion of executive presidency and dictatorship have come to an end in Turkey with these elections." -HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas.
As one of the most stable countries in the Middle East, Turkey has long provided the region with an excellent example of how democracy and a weak executive branch can work in an otherwise highly fractured region. Recently, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to be challenging this tradition by making moves towards increasing the authorities of the presidential office. Fortunately, Turkey's parliamentary elections earlier this week appear to have ended this dream (or at least dealt it a serious setback). Let's take a look at the politics of Turkey and what this election means for the future of the country.
Unlike most other regional powers, Turkey does not have a strong authoritarian leader (something Erdogan is supposedly trying to change). However, Turkey (with the notable exception of the Kurdish minority) does have a much stronger sense of shared nationalism, religious identity, and culture than most other Middle East nations (like Iraq for instance). The modern state of Turkey was founded mostly by Mustafa Kemal just after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. Kemal believed strongly in making the new nation appear more "Western." Among other things, he is famous for establishing a secular parliamentary government, abolishing the Islamic office of the Caliph, and introducing a Latin-based script to the Turkish language (he also banned the Fez for not being "European enough"). Turkey has remained relatively stable throughout the decades and is not as vulnerable to the same ethnic/religious breakdowns we have seen in other nations. Today, the office of President has few significant powers (this is mostly vested in the Parliament).
So who is Erdogan and what was he trying to do? Erdogan founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, which has since become the dominant party in Parliament. He assumed the role of Prime Minister in 2003 and President in 2014, and started a process of encouraging infrastructure and educational investment (doubling the number of universities and drastically increasing the education budget). However, his presidency has also been marred by corruption scandals, media intimidation, and attempts to return Turkey to a more religiously-centered nation. It seems his plan for the recent elections was for the AKP to win enough parliamentary seats to change Turkey's constitution without a holding a national referendum. If this would have happened, Erdogan's party could easily have granted significant powers to the presidential office through constitutional changes.
But Erdogan's plan was foiled in this week's election. His party only won 40% of the seats in Parliament (still more than any other party, but not enough to form a government on their own). Under the Turkish constitution, the various political parties need to join together to form a majority government every election cycle. Now, the AKP will need to combine forces with another party to form a ruling coalition (none of which are likely to help Erdogan amend the constitution). If a new coalition isn't formed in the next several weeks, there will be a re-election to go through the process all over again. This setback by the AKP is being recognized as a clear indication of the public's disapproval of many of Erdogan's actions (though many still support his reform programs). Most likely, the AKP will relax its reform-minded agenda in favor of one which is more inclusive to other parties.
If the AKP was the big loser in this election, the primary Kurdish party (People's Democratic Party or HDP) was the big winner. The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group whose lands were split among Turkey, Iraq, and Syria following the First World War. Since then, the Kurds have never attained real independence in any of these states (they have also split into several distinct factions, making a unified Kurdistan nearly impossible). This party, which pushes a more left-leaning and pro-Kurdish agenda, attained the 10% of overall votes needed to hold seats in Parliament. This party has reached across cultural divides to gain both Kurdish and Turkish votes alike. Their dramatic inclusion into the Turkish Parliament will likely mean more rights and autonomy for the Kurdish people (and a growing check on Erdogan's power).
So what does all of this mean for the region? Well it certainly seems like the Kurds will play a much bigger role in Turkish politics (likely giving themselves greater independence). Without his party's super-majority, Erdogan will be unable to increase his own power significantly, but he will still heavily influence things like Turkey's European Union bid and the fight against ISIS in neighboring Syria. After all, the AKP is still by far the dominant party in Turkish politics.
In all, this election seems to be a big win for the forces of democratic governance in Turkey. In an era where Middle East nations are increasingly becoming more authoritarian (Egypt, Syria, and the Gulf nations), the defeat of Erdogan's potential power grab is a welcome reminder that popular rule can still succeed. Some nations need a strong executive leader to function, others only a need broad ruling coalition. Turkey, it seems, has opted for the latter.
TL;DR: Minority parties win big in Turkish elections, President Erdogan loses his chance to increase his own power.