Turkey – Coalition Talks Start As Political Uncertainty Continues

The June 7 general elections ended the ruling AKP’s 13 years of single party rule and created a difficult situation in the parliament. As before, there are four parties in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA), but the composition has changed dramatically (the AKP now has 258 seats, CHP 139, MHP 80, and HDP 80 of the total 550 seats). Even though the ruling AKP lost its majority, it remains the largest party and still has the capacity to rule in any future coalition. According to the Constitution any government has to attain the support of the absolute majority of the votes cast in order to survive the investiture vote. Without the AKP joining the coalition all  three remaining parties would have to come together to form a majority coalition.

It became evident shortly after the election that the three remaining parties – the social democratic CHP, the nationalist MHP, and pro-Kurdish leftist HDP – would not be able to form a coalition together, as the nationalist MHP’s leader Bahçeli declared that they would not support any coalition in which the pro-Kurdish HDP participated. That declaration meant that the AKP has to be the formateur of any future coalition.

The nationalist MHP maintained the same position during the election of the speaker of the TGNA, declaring that they would not vote for a candidate that HDP members supported. Arithmetically speaking, this meant supporting the AKP’s candidate, İsmet Yılmaz, since the Constitution requires a simple majority at the fourth and final round of voting. Here, the two candidates with the most votes at the third round stand against each other. In the end İsmet Yılmaz was elected at the fourth round when MHP members voted blank instead of supporting the CHP candidate, Deniz Baykal.

For many, this was an indication of a future coalition between the AKP and MHP. Such a coalition might be right one for President Erdoğan as he says his wish is “that a new government will be formed in line with the sensitivities of conditions for Turkey today.” The sensitive condition that he is referring to might be the Syrian crisis on which the AKP has very similar views to the MHP, especially with respect to establishing a safe zone on the Syrian board.

Such a right-wing conservative partnership would also be the easiest for electors of both parties to accept. Beşir Atalay, one of closest comrades of President Erdoğan, confirmed that the AKP’s supporters also want a coalition with the MHP.

However, the biggest problem facing an AKP coalition with MHP or indeed with any of the  three remaining parties is President Erdoğan. All the opposition parties demanded that the President should act impartially towards all parties and that he should not involve himself in daily politics in accordance with the Constitution. In response, the leader of the AKP, Prime Minister Davutoğlu, ruled out any negotiations regarding the role of the presidency.
Furthermore, opposition parties promised their electors that the corruption and graft claims regarding President Erdoğan, his son, Bilal Erdoğan, and three former AKP ministers among others that were revealed on December 17 and 25, 2013, would be taken to court. This does not seem likely. President Erdoğan responded to such demands by saying, “Today Turkey needs a coalition government that asserts its will for the solution of current problems and for building the future, instead of debating its past”, indicating that coalition talks would fail if past political debates including corruption allegations were brought up again.

There are 45 days to form a coalition. If there is no coalition at the end of that time or no chance of one being formed, President Erdoğan can call a snap election. The first day of the 45 days started on 9 July, 2015.

President Erdoğan commissioned the leader of the AKP, Davutoğlu, to form a coalition on that day. Davutoğlu will resume talks with CHP, MHP and HDP respectively on 13, 14 and 15 of July. Even though Davutoğlu has scheduled meetings with all three parties, he says their focus will be on either the CHP or MHP.

As for President Erdoğan’s future political position, there is no indication that he will resume a passive role. He is currently supervising the coalition formation process, and has warned all parties that a minority government should not be an option and that they have to either successfully form a coalition in time or face a snap election.

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