Will the AKP lose its single majority rule?

The fears are confirmed. Two simultaneous terror attacks against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) offices in Mersin and Adana — wounding at least three people — leave little doubt on efforts to destabilize the already fragile social fabric of Turkey, only weeks before the utterly critical general elections.

This escalation of fear has a background: According to Figen Yüksekdağ, co-chairperson of the HDP, there have already been 59 attacks — arson, vandalism, and destruction – against the party’s representatives in the past three weeks.

I have been witness to one of these attacks. By coincidence, I found myself in the midst of a nasty street fight between Kurds, who had opened an HDP booth in Kuzguncuk — one of the most peaceful districts at Bosphorus — and Turkish nationalists. The booth was torn down and the fight went on for a long time before police arrived, far too late.

In the background of rising tension, which has resulted in bloody incidents in Mersin and Adana, one can easily find a polarization encouraged by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s divisive rhetoric.

But there is also another element about which many pollsters, three weeks before the election, seem to agree: The votes continue to escape the ruling AKP, and no matter how much Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has been trying and how hard President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — at the cost of breaching the constitution — rushes to rescue, the ‘bleeding’ cannot be stopped.

As I have repeatedly argued in this column, it is now clear that Erdoğan has not meant any serious business with the Peace Process, other than securing an elections atmosphere through which his power be consolidated further. All the efforts by the so-called ‘wise people’ committees and fancy declaration of protocols seem to have no other potential than to dupe people.

So, by each and every escalation of tension — along with the now disrupted talks with the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan — leading figures of the Kurdish political movement find themselves in the midst of a tough ‘learning process’. Yet, a careful examination of HDP rhetoric, as well as messages coming in from PKK bases in Kandil, does reveal a level of patience. The Kurdish population knows that should one respond to provocations and take to the streets, it would serve the interests of Erdoğan, who would find fertile ground to invite back the nationalist vote.

But, if the attacks continue and the authorities do not protect the safety of the HDP campaigns, it will be difficult to control the crowds. This is also possible if the HDP fails to pass the 10 percent threshold by a small margin.

It is common these days to hear people from different walks of the opposition muttering, “My God, let election day come with no painful incidents and calamity.”

Fear, in general, runs very deep. It has to do with the consistent rhetoric of Erdoğan and his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu that “the system is so worn out that a new one is needed.”

More importantly, it has to do with a Gordion Knot of the current Turkish political scene. All four competing parties are stuck in staunch, exclusive identities: The Justice and Development Party (AKP) as Sunni, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) as mainly Alevi. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is as entrenched in Turkish nationalism as the HDP is positioned in Kurdish nationalism. This deadlock offers no promises for compromises or cooperation across the party lines.

The soft spot for the AKP, when translated onto realpolitik, is to see to it that the HDP fails to pass 10 percent barrier. This, coupled with the regaining of a part of the nationalist vote from the MHP, would give Erdoğan a breathing space with a slight majority to help continue his rule.

The entry of the HDP into Parliament would turn upside down the 12 year-long political status quo. So, expect a negative focus and a further demonization of the HDP campaigns.

Bekir Ağırdır, a reputed pollster with KONDA Research and Consultancy, claimed yesterday that the AKP will likely end up with fewer than 300 seats; at best enough to go on as a simple majority government. It may also end up with a lower figure, opening up the necessity of a coalition.

I agree with Ağırdır, who argues that in such a situation the AKP will seek a coalition with the nationalist MHP. No matter what happens, the crisis is looming from June 8 on.

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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