Turkish politics has now entered a critical phase. The early twists and turns may continue, but it appears somewhat clear that a coalition without a role given to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will not be in the making.
Two parties — the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) — seem, despite overtures that would suggest otherwise, willing to cooperate with the AKP simply because their respective grassroots, which are dominated by the culture of clientelism, are expecting a level of “control” over the ministries. Another factor is that the newly elected deputies would prefer to wait this period out with lucrative salaries, rather than being forced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan into an early election.
The first strong sign about the preferred coalition constellation will come when Parliament elects its speaker. There is little doubt that it will be a choice between two elderly figures from the “willing” parties of aforementioned opposition. The CHP-nominated Deniz Baykal is a figure in Kemalist-based politics with more than four decades of experience. The MHP’s candidate is the internationally respected Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, a former chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Since none of these two parties are expected to vote for the AKP’s or pro-Kurdish HDP’s nominees, whomever the AKP prefers will offer some clues as to the most likely coalition partner.
It is clear that caution is required and nobody should jump the gun, but what appears on the horizon promises a Turkey that will be shaken and rattled in a period of instability, culminating in a crisis.
A two-party coalition that includes the AKP, with either the CHP or the MHP, will mean a choice between the bad and the even worse.
The ideal, without a doubt, would be cooperation between three parties, led by the CHP — with either the MHP or the HDP offering “outside” support. What Turkey needs is a “new page” after a long rule by the AKP that knocked against a pile of rubble — in terms of corruption, arbitrary rule and a reversal of reforms — which places Turkey in a position without the ammunition to negotiate further with the EU. But staunch resistance by the MHP to play any constructive role on the basis of even minimal common ground has left the CHP and the HDP helpless.
What makes what remains seem to be a choice between the bad to the even worse is, well, the AKP itself. Both the CHP and the MHP, keen on putting their own conditions forward for sharing power, know they will have a lot to answer for if they fail to deliver a path that leads to the dirty deeds that overshadowed the AKP rule being made accountable. So, when the talks begin seriously to build a government, neither Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the CHP, nor Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the MHP, will in fact be negotiating with Ahmet Davutoğlu, “chairman” — not the leader — of the AKP. Both will actually be horse-trading with the most powerful and obstinate figure of Turkish politics since 2002: President Erdoğan.
Everybody knows the June 7 elections were chiefly about him, and so will its aftermath be. Nothing has changed. Erdoğan signals defiance, denying that he is in breach of the Constitution and moreover, he is threatening Parliament with early elections, showing how much he sticks to his power game, as he sees possibilities to impose his will.
If the four political actors — including even the AKP — see him as a liability for Turkey, each and every elected political player now has no choice but to challenge Erdoğan’s destructive game.
Will Davutoğlu realize that he has only one more chance left, namely to try to take control over the AKP’s direction, before he loses everything? For this, he needs a strong will and a fine group of advisors.
As for the rest — the CHP, the MHP and the HDP — the first step to standing tall is that, if Turkey goes to early elections, the AKP will continue to lose, if the voter continues to see the same patterns of behavior by Erdoğan. So, it’s all about strategy, skill and sharp mass communication on their behalf. The AKP will either have to give in to accountability in a coalition, or face further defeat through early polls. It’s as simple as that.