Turkish Lira Plunges As Landmark Election Portends Political Uncertainty

In an election that was, essentially, a litmus test for Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans to expand his powers, voters dealt the Turkish President and his Justice and Development Party (A.K.P.) a stinging blow at the ballot box on Sunday. 

With 99% of the vote tallied, A.K.P appeared to have lost its parliamentary majority, winning only around 40% of the vote, a steep decline from 2011.

The results likely mean the party will have around 260 seats in parliament, down from 327. A difficult coalition building effort will now ensue and Erdogan can call for new elections if a government isn't formed within 45 days.

What this means for political and social instability remains to be seen. 

More color from The New York Times:

Almost immediately, the results raised questions about the political future of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who moved to that position from that of foreign minister last year and was seen as a loyal subordinate of Mr. Erdogan. Mr. Davutoglu, who during the campaign vowed to resign if the A.K.P. did not win a majority, told reporters on Sunday evening in brief comments, “whatever the people decide is for the best.” Mr. Davutoglu was due to speak later in the evening in Ankara.

 

Mr. Erdogan, who as president was not on the ballot Sunday, will probably remain Turkey’s dominant political figure even if his powers have been rolled back, given his outsized personality and his still-deep well of support among Turkey’s religious conservatives, who form the backbone of his constituency. But even among those supporters, including ones in Kasimpasa, the Istanbul neighborhood where Mr. Erdogan spent part of his youth, there are signs that his popularity is flagging, partly because of his push for more powers over the judiciary and his crackdown on any form of criticism, including prosecutions of those who insult him on social media.

 

“A lot of people in Kasimpasa have become disheartened by Erdogan’s aggressive approach in recent weeks,” said Aydin, 77, who gave only his first name because some of his family members are close to Mr. Erdogan. “I voted for the A.K.P. because it has become habit, but I think Erdogan lost votes this week.”

And here's Barclays on the implications going forward:

So far, a single party government in Turkey has generally been perceived as a source of stability by the market and reaction to election results confirming such continuity has generally been positive. However, this perception seems to have somewhat evolved recently. Particularly, foreign investors sound less uncomfortable with a coalition government scenario on the basis of improvement in checks and balances, whereas local investor perception is more negative.

 

In our view, local markets could trade poorly for an extended period should the election confirm a coalition government. First, it is still uncertain whether AKP would be able to attract support from MHP or HDP relatively swiftly and smoothly. While MHP stands as a natural coalition partner on the face of it, given the overlap in broader ideologies, the party’s disagreement with President Erdogan on many fronts and its reservations about the Kurdish peace process will likely make coalition process less straightforward. Indeed, MHP vice president Zuhal Topcu yesterday ruled out a coalition with AKP, accusing the party of making concessions to “terrorists” in an interview with Bloomberg. On the HDP front, external support for an AKP government seemed more likely than a coalition, given the sensitivities of both parties’ voter base.

 

However, HDP officials recently ruled out external support to an AKP government.

 

We think coalition negotiations could add another layer of uncertainty to the structure and focus of economic management, with which foreign investors already have concerns.

Underscoring Barclays commentary, the lira just hit a record low against the dollar:

  • TURKISH LIRA PLUNGES 3.3% TO RECORD LOW 2.7523 AGAINST DOLLAR