Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to address you here this morning on the current situation in Turkey. Last Sunday, Turks went to the polls once again. This general election was the third election in Turkey in 14 months. The presidential elections were held in August 2014 and we had the previous general election last June. By a constitutional change in 2007 the presidents of the republic are now elected by popular vote rather than parliamentary nomination for two consecutive terms of five years, compared to previously when it was only for a single term of seven years. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan became our first elected president with 52% of the vote.
The unicameral parliament in Turkey is composed of 550 deputies directly elected from 85 electoral districts for a four-year term by mitigated proportional representation. To be represented in the parliament, a party must win at least 10% of the vote. There are more than 55 million registered voters in Turkey, and the voter turnout is generally around 80%. On 7 June, the conservative democratic Justice and Development Party, AK Party, which had governed Turkey since 2002, won 258 seats with 40.9% of the vote and, for the first time, lost its parliamentary majority. The main opposition social-democratic Republican People's Party, CHP, won 132 seats with 25.0% of the vote. The far right Nationalist Movement Party, MHP, saw an increase in its vote share, winning 80 seats with 16.3% of the vote. The leftist Peoples' Democratic Party, HDP, which passed the 10% threshold, won 13.1% of the vote and took 80 seats.
According to the constitution, if a government cannot be formed within 45 days, the president may call early elections. As the efforts to form a coalition government failed after the June elections, an interim government led the country into the election of last Sunday. In this election, the Justice and Development Party, AK Party, won 317 seats with 49.5% of the vote. The Republican People's Party, CHP, won 134 seats with 25.3% of the vote. The Nationalist Movement Party, MHP, won 40 seats with 11.9% of the vote. The Peoples Democratic Party, HDP, won 10.75% of the vote and took 59 seats in the parliament. These results will enable AK Party to form a single-party government for another four years.
We are a candidate country to, and a close economic partner of, the EU. Membership to the EU is a strategic choice and our accession process continues to constitute a high priority for Turkey. Accession negotiations
are one of the main aspects and a driving force of the Turkey-EU relationship. The EU is a reference point for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Currently there is a standstill in the accession process. We should be able to continue the negotiations as a purely technical process without facing artificially created political obstacles. The economic downturn has triggered a debate about the economic, social and political finality of European reformation, and protectionist tendencies have curbed the appetite for further enlargement. However, we believe the EU needs the enlargement process more than ever in order to create new opportunities for trade and more welfare in Europe.
On the other hand, the Turkish economy continues to perform well. It is the world's 17th and Europe's sixth largest economy. Today, the EU is our main trade partner with 40% of the total trade. Turkey is the sixth largest trade partner of the EU, following the US, China, the Russian Federation, Switzerland and Norway. Therefore, Turkey and the EU are interdependent in economic terms. Furthermore, Turkey's membership of the EU will be a development that is consistent with the flow of history. Turkey has always been a part of Europe historically, geographically, politically, economically and in the social and cultural sense. Turkey has been influenced by the events in Europe throughout history, and it has in turn influenced the events on the continent.
President Erdoan paid an official visit to Brussels from 4 to 6 October 2015 on the invitation of King Philippe and, at the margins of his visit, he met with the Presidents of the European Council, Commission and Parliament. He had fruitful discussions on Turkey-EU relations, irregular migration and regional and international issues. On 14 and 15 October he met the First Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr. Timmermans, and EU Commissioner for migration Mr. Avramopoulos. On 18 October Chancellor Merkel visited Turkey and held talks with President Erdoan and Prime Minister Davutolu on enhancement of co-operation on migration issues. A draft action plan on migration was worked on together with the EU representatives. This plan remains ad referendum at this stage. We saw, however, that the European Council conclusions of 15 October are far from meeting the expectations.
Recently, President Erdoan and Chancellor Merkel discussed accelerating Turkey's accession process by inviting Turkey, as in the past, to the EU summits and by opening six chapters of the accession process, which are: harmonizing rules on energy under chapter 15; economic and monetary policy under chapter 17; judiciary and fundamental rights under chapter 23; justice, freedoms and security policy under chapter 24; education and culture under chapter 26; and foreign, security and defence policy under chapter 31. Visa liberalisation was also a topic discussed. Turkey is the only candidate country to the EU whose citizens are subject to a visa. We would like to see concrete commitments from the EU side on earlier visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens.
The Syrian crisis has become the world's largest humanitarian tragedy in recent memory. Almost half of the country's population, close to 12 million men, women and children, have been displaced. Turkey continues to pursue an open door policy for Syrians without any form of discrimination. According to the UNHCR, Turkey is the biggest refugee-hosting country in the world. The total number of Syrians living in Turkey reached more than 2.4 million as of October 2015. As of 22 October 2015, 273,565 Syrians are accommodated in 25 temporary protection centres and provided with food, non-food items, health and education services as well as psychological assistance, vocational training and social activities in Turkey.
The attitude of Turkish society to migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and people under temporary protection has always been one of tolerance, sympathy and solidarity. The number of Syrian babies delivered so far in the protection centres in Turkey is around 66,000. In other words, on average 110 Syrian babies are born every day only in protection centres. There are 600,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey now. New schools, classrooms and teachers are needed. In this regard, proper funding for the implementation of the UN's no lost generation strategy became an urgent priority.
Turkey has so far spent close to US$8 billion for all these efforts whereas the total contributions we received bilaterally and multilaterally from the international community has been limited to US$417 million. This is not sustainable. We feel that there is a clear deficit of solidarity on the part of the international community on burden-sharing with respect to the Syrian crisis. This also is an issue which is discussed with the EU. It is neither possible nor just to expect Turkey to cope alone with this overwhelming migration as well as risks and threats emanating from Syrian refugees. As the number of Syrians that are seeking safety and refuge in Europe by taking dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean has increased dramatically, the Turkish Coast Guard has initiated Operation Safe Med in the Mediterranean Sea and Operation Aegean Hope in the Aegean Sea in 2015 in order to maintain safety and security at seas.
In short, Turkey and the EU agreed to work together to alleviate the refugee crisis. We are hoping to conclude the action plan which will be a reference document for closer co-operation and co-ordination between us. We welcome the revamped efforts by the EU to tackle the crisis and the pledges of increased financial aid to Turkey to that effect. We also extend our appreciation for the constructive support given by the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, and the Irish Government on the issue. There is an urgent need for a political transition that will preserve the territorial integrity and unity of Syria. The principles of rights, duties and freedoms for all citizens and equality under the rule of law constitute the strongest remedy developed by humanity to ethnic and religious divisions and strife. If Syria starts breaking up, it will lead to new risks and threats in the Middle East, increased ethnic and religious strife and the proliferation of violent terrorist organizations like ISIS with global ramifications. The foreign Ministers of Turkey, the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia met in Vienna on 23 October 2015 to discuss possible ways to resolve the crisis in Syria. A subsequent enlarged meeting took place on 30 October where this time the EU, UN, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Iran, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Lebanon and Oman were also represented. The parties decided to meet and continue their talks in mid-November. Unless we take quick action and show international determination for a political solution, the refugee problem will not subside. In the absence of a swift end to the conflict, as has been demonstrated during and in the aftermath of major conflicts in the past, more and more refugees will risk their lives and find ways to reach safety in Europe and beyond, no matter what measures are taken.