Suspicions are now emerging in Ankara that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intends to indulge in a murky political game to block a coalition and take Turkey into a new election in the fall.
His pattern since the June 7 election is based on acting as slowly as possible, although the conditions in the neighborhood, Syria and Greece in particular, demand rapid action.
However, if he is determined to engage in a cunning plan to delay and complicate the process, he may be raising the stakes in the political gamble he has been involved in since late December 2013 when he and his government were hit by a series of graft probes.
A month has passed since the polls that delivered a severe blow to Erdoğan’s plans for autocratic rule and ended the single-handed domination of his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Erdoğan should have followed what his predecessors did: not wait more than a week after the Supreme Election Board (YSK) announced the official results to call for the formation of a new government. The oath-taking ceremony for the new MP’s has passed, as has the election of the parliament speaker. There is nothing that prevents the president from giving the go-ahead to form a coalition. Except perhaps for profoundly, exclusively selfish reasons.
Focus is now on a new technical threshold in Ankara politics: as the bylaws suggest, a new Speaker’s Council must be formed in Parliament within the upcoming days — if the parties agree that is. Now is the time and this will give Erdoğan a few days more before he moves ahead. Nobody knows for sure whether or not the AKP will hamper the formation of such a coalition.
So, one can guess that Ahmet Davutoğlu can begin negotiations with other party leaders next week at the earliest.
Once Davutoğlu begins negotiations there are 45 days for Parliament to come to an agreement on a coalition or minority government. If not, early elections must be declared, which points to late November.
Such a scenario goes like this: Davutoğlu meets all three parties, following the usual customs. According to columnist Abdülkadir Selvi, who is close to the AKP, Davutoğlu does not intend to hurry at all. He had already formed two commissions within the party, one for his talks with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the other for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
After a first round of meetings, Selvi wrote that Davutoğlu will bring back the proposals from those parties and they will be evaluated. Nobody has any idea how long these first two rounds will take. They may take us into August — another critical month in terms of key changes within the top command that is not yet in sync about how to act regarding Syria — with the current government.
A quick formation of a coalition would be, in that context, counter to what the president aims for. A new coalition would complicate very important matters by engaging in military appointments in early August, pushing Erdoğan considerably out of control. This would particularly be the case if the AKP and CHP made an agreement by the end of July.
What about the party leaders? Davutoğlu is rather unhappy with the prospects of Erdoğan returning as the ruler of the game because Davutoğlu still feels the ground beneath him is rather thin. The only dynamic in his favor is that if he manages to form a coalition, he may strengthen his position when the AKP holds its congress at the end of August.
Devlet Bahçeli does not care whether or not Turkey goes to elections but instead wants to see the AKP weakened in its inability to once again take the lead.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has a key position; he has the potential to force the pace of the formation of a coalition if he can read into Erdoğan’s cunning game.
Even during these 45 precious days, the prospect of going to an early election may give Erdoğan time to exert influence on the AKP cadres to increase his chances for “survival,” hampering coalition talks.
If 45 days pass with no progress, Erdoğan may propose a four-party coalition, which because of the MHP’s resistance to cooperation with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will not happen, or a “caretaker” AKP minority government that will take Turkey to early polls.
This will mean, in practice, that Erdoğan and the AKP will continue calling the shots for four more months during which appointments and interference in key institutions will continue, as it does in full force these days.