President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desperate struggle to cling to power, and to open further the paths to autocratic rule, has so far had several effects.
His cunning maneuvering after the June 7 elections did break apart the opposition camp, made the will of voters devoid of meaning, demolished the “peace process,” turned the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) into a game-defining player in politics, awakened the nationalist and “deep state” monsters to the full and triggered an immense amount of violence, inviting long-term instability.
In the midst of the post-election tension, rational voices repeatedly had called for a coalition between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Meanwhile, the exchanges between the AKP and MHP recently had brought to the fore the possibility of an AKP minority government, which could have passed the vote of confidence with the help of the MHP, and it was aimed at an election next spring.
The overall mood has now changed towards an early election in November. Coalition talks between the AKP and CHP seem — as predicted — to have hit a wall. Abdulkadir Selvi, a columnist with close contact with both parties wrote yesterday that “it is now almost clear that no positive outcome is expected out of those talks. I talked to the CHP [side]. They are hugely disappointed.”
Erdoğan was never keen for a AKP-CHP government, for obvious reasons. On the other hand, the survival of a minority government dependent fully on the MHP as external element seems very fragile. Economic predictions spoke also against delaying the election to next year.
So, under the apparent influence of Erdoğan, the AKP prepares for a new gamble.
Selvi refers to some surveys done for the AKP that, while the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) seems only to have lost 1 percent, the AKP has regained two percent. Those, he reports, come from the MHP and the tiny Felicity Party (SP). Yet, this doesn’t enlighten us as to whether or not the remaining two to three percent of conservative Kurdish votes have also already left the AKP after the security operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and their supporters.
Still in the unknown, under the pressure of the newly elected AKP deputies not willing to lose their positions, eclipsed by the personal calculations of Erdoğan and the AKP leader, Ahmet Davutoğlu, unable to impose his “real” will over the fate of the party, the gamble of what Erdoğan revealingly calls “repeat elections” as an option is gaining ground for real.
So far, Erdoğan has emerged as the tactical winner since the June 7 election. He grabbed control of the agenda, decisively pushing Turkey to another moment of choice for the direction he so desires.
Yet, all point out that he will end up as a loser in his strategy. Even if the HDP’s vote falls below 12 percent, expectations for the AKP to build a single majority government may be illusory. About 70 percent of voters recently said in a Gezici survey that they would prefer a coalition and 66 percent see Erdoğan as increasingly oppressive.
It would not be a surprise at all if the remaining Kurdish vote also leaves the AKP. There is nothing indicating that enough votes to raise the AKP above 45 percent will come from the nationalist camp.
But there is a bigger issue: Erdoğan’s ruthless maneuvering since the 2014 local elections and his undue interferences in politics have stripped the AKP of all pledges and hopes it once represented. The AKP, now a party speaking the language of an oppressive state, is on the verge of ideological self-annihilation. It is now a party that speaks against, not for, the aspirations of the people. What will it pledge and promise to the people, if early polls are held?
The late Süleyman Demirel reportedly told Erdoğan when some months ago before he died Erdoğan visited him: “Don’t position yourself against the people. You did. A politician who does that is a politician whose time is over.”
My personal hunch is the AKP’s “gamble” on early polls, if it leads to a choice, will end up with another slap on the face by the voters. Even if so, it will have made Turkey lose another valuable year, with scars deepening and instability threatening the upcoming ones.