Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
will need to make one of the toughest decisions of his political venture within the coming two months.
He has two options. A) He will either continue as the prime minister and in order to make this possible, he will make changes to his party’s statutes. B) He will decide to ascend to the Çankaya Presidential Mansion and will exert all his power for the two-round presidential elections.
According to the election calendar the Supreme Election Board (YSK) has scheduled, the first round of the presidential election will be held on Aug. 10, Sunday. In other words, there are about four months and a week left. If one of the candidates cannot receive more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round, then the second round when the top two candidates compete will be held on Aug. 24. The election calendar has to start 60 days before the first round. This takes us to the date June 10. In other words, Erdoğan does not have too much time to make a decision on this matter.
We can assume that Erdoğan is engaged in evaluating his possible course of action in reviewing the local election results of Sunday. If the power equilibrium of the 2011 general elections were valid today, then it would have been very easy for him to make this decision. The reason for this is that he had received 49.8 percent of the votes (in total, 21,399,000 votes). Based on this, he could have put the key in his pocket to the Çankaya Mansion with little effort.
However, even though Sunday’s elections resulted in an absolute victory, it has also shown a substantial decline in their votes. Çankaya is no more a slam dunk for him in the first round. The vote erosion he has experienced which is over six points will force him to form alliances.
The number of registered voters in Turkey last Sunday was 52,695,000. According to unofficial results, 46,510,000 people voted and the number of valid votes was around 44,725,000.
The vote distribution of the main parties nationwide looks as follows: Justice and Development Party (AK Party): 19,455,000 (43.5 percent), Republican People’s Party (CHP): 11,444,000 (25.6 percent), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP): 7,875,000 (17.6 percent), BDP and HDP total: 2,952,000 (6.6 percent), Felicity Party (SP) 1,248,000 (2.8 percent) and Great Union Party (BBP): 713,000 (1.6 percent).
Let us assume that the valid votes of Sunday were repeated in the first round on Aug. 10. In this case, in order to be elected in the first round, Erdoğan needs a minimum of 22,363,000 votes; however he is short 2,900,000 votes. He will have to fill this gap.
Erdoğan might turn to conservative parties such as the SP and the BBP. The total votes of these two parties are a little shy of 2 million. This support is not enough. In this case, the prime minister might opt for a very critical alternative. He may need to choose between two parties, one which predominantly focuses on Turkish nationalism, the other over Kurdish identity, which makes the two at odds with each other.
When we look at the naked reality of figures, theoretically, when he draws all the votes of BDP to his side, he will be able to easily open the door of the mansion in the first round. However, it is the nature of politics that the Kurdish political movement will seek something in return for this support.
However, there is a significant political risk Erdoğan has to weigh here: In the event that he considers ascending to Çankaya with Kurdish votes, then it might make it a risky choice that he only counts on this option because of the nationalist-conservative masses in the Black Sea, Central and East Anatolia that constitute the stronghold of his party’s grassroots and also the reactional response of west of Turkey.
At this stage, Erdoğan has to take into consideration that he has lost around 2,200,000 votes compared to the 2011 general elections and that the MHP is on a rising trend. The MHP won around 5,575,000 votes in 2011 and on Sunday it gained 7,875,000 votes, corresponding to 17.6 percent. This is a clear increase of 2,300,000 votes.
It may be argued that as much as Erdoğan leans towards BDP, the shift of votes to the MHP will accelerate.
There is no doubt that in the event of a second round, it would become the most important variable in the equation as to whether the MHP and CHP
form a strong alliance over one candidate. Erdoğan may take all the risks and make a presidential move assuming he would win in the second round. Also, he may choose to remain in the prime ministry considering it is not necessary to take all these risks.
Indeed, another factor that might keep him at the prime ministry is that the quest to expand the powers of the presidency has not been finalized. Of course, the motive to conclude the fight he launched against the Gülen community may constitute another reason for him to stay at the prime ministry.