Whatever the election result, constitutional crisis ahead

Whenever he does it, there is probably a reason to pay attention. Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, a former deputy and an influential Kurdish “founding father” of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has raised the alarm to higher levels once more.

Now a candidate for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Fırat warned that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is preparing to throw the so-called “Kurdish peace process” into the garbage can after the elections.

Fırat, whose time as a top party figure makes him deeply familiar with the genetics of the AKP’s top echelons and the “reasoning” of its leader, went even further, cautioning that depending on voter trends, tensions with Syria might be deliberately escalated to hostility “in order to postpone the elections.”

With the unilateral declaration of diplomatic warfare against the governments and parliaments that called the 1915 events “genocide” and by launching a row with the newly elected Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı, Turkish foreign policy is now more or less speaking in tongues and Ankara is seen as more adrift and unpredictable.

The national debate is far from healthy. The main bulk of the media shies away, in fear and trembling, from a proper debate about the pros and cons of what Erdoğan intends to with his new presidential system. The media now under his yoke chooses not to allow mainstream experts of political systems on TV debates for the fear of disseminating criticisms, influencing voters against the president and attracting his outrage.

If the latest reactions from the AKP resemble panic attacks, the truth probably lies in the latest polls. The AKP’s insiders seem to agree with the other polls that what is seen by Erdoğan shows the AKP slightly above the 40 percent level. An average of polls published in the past five-six weeks indicate that the HDP remains above the critical 10 percent threshold.

No one has a reason, though, to jump the gun. The remaining 40 days will affect a lot of variables. The election is very much open-ended.

But one thing is certain: No matter what the election outcome in the evening of June 7 will be, Turkey’s crisis will deepen — that is, a constitutional crisis whose seeds were sown by Erdoğan after the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 graft probes.

Each election result will have its own pace, progress and impact in a negative sense. Roughly, there are three scenarios:

· The HDP fails to pass the 10 percent barrier, the AKP wins big once more and gains a constitutional (referendum) majority of at least 330 seats; Fırat’s predictions come true; Erdoğan, feeling victorious, exercises control over Parliament, only making slight amendments to the presidential system and the HDP voters’ discontent spills on to the streets. The best outcome would be early polls.

· The AKP gains between 276-330 seats to continue to rule as a single majority party, with Erdoğan’s status as “partial and executive president”: the AKP may either approach the HDP or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to amend constitutional clauses on the presidential system. The HDP may then bargain for collective rights, self-rule and general amnesty, which “deep Ankara” would fiercely oppose. The MHP would either refuse help the amendments or demand to be part of the government. Each case is surely bound to escalate the crisis.

· The AKP’s historic period as a single party majority ruler ends because it falls below 275 seats: Since the AKP must be given the first chance to form a coalition, it may approach either the HDP or the MHP (negotiating a coalition partnership would mean an end to the CHP as we know it). In such a case, the HDP may be the “hard” and the MHP the “soft” bargainer. Thus, the latter seem much more likely, given the “risks” Erdoğan faces with the tough Kurdish demands. As we know that the deep state is now marching back to regain its influence, an AKP-MHP coalition would be one “the establishment” would prefer. Keep in mind also that it will be Erdoğan who will have to “approve” the members of the Cabinet at the end of the day. Even this sheer fact is a harbinger of a deep crisis.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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