Erdoğan’s plans in case he loses parliament
For the first time in his 16-year tenure, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke about the possibility of a coalition government after the June 24 early elections. During a joint TV and radio show interview on June 20, he said if his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti)-led alliance cannot win 300 seats in the 600-seat Turkish Parliament — the number of seats required to make laws — there “might be a search for a coalition.”
This is surprising because of two main reasons.
Firstly, Erdoğan’s statement makes it look like he is sure he will be re-elected as president in the second round of the elections (on July 8) if not in the first round. But he is not sure the AK Parti-led alliance will be able to win a majority in parliament.
Secondly, one of Erdoğan’s strongest theses in politics so far has been that the coalition governments in the past have ruined the economy and government administrations, and his success came from the fact that the AK Parti has been a one-party government since day one.
Enunciating the possibility of a coalition might have been difficult for him, since it points at a lack of confidence over the success of his electoral alliance.
But there is one crucial question. The constitutional shift to the executive presidency model, which was approved in a referendum in April 2017, rules there will no longer be a prime minister after the election and the cabinet will be formed by the president with no need for the vote of confidence. But then why is Erdoğan mentioning a search for a coalition when there is no need for the vote of confidence, since there is no obstacle for the president to take ministers from other parties as well?
The answer lies within the law making capacity of parliament. According to the constitution, parliament will continue to approve the budget and issue laws. The president can also secure the budget of the presidency for one more year as the previous one, but not for the second year. To secure legislative support, Erdoğan might need to get the support of parties other than his main ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), if the alliance of the AK Parti, the MHP and the Greater Unity Party (BBP) fails to win 300 seats in parliament.
It is unlikely the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will form a coalition with the AK Parti, unless it begins with a change in the constitution to a model that does not give all the executive powers to the president and empowers the checks-and-balances system instead. That could leave the AK Parti with two main alternatives: Either the right-wing İYİ (Good) Party or the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Then comes the second big question: Will MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli continue to back Erdoğan if he appoints ministers and chairs to parliamentary commissions either from the İYİ Party, which had been formed after splitting from the MHP, or the MHP’s archenemy, the HDP? The answer is likely to be a “no.”
Therefore, it is possible to assume that if Erdoğan is re-elected but the AK Parti-led alliance cannot get 300 seats in parliament, Erdoğan might dump the MHP and continue either with the support of the İYİ Party or the HDP, with the possibility of having ministers in cabinet from them, in return of parliamentary support for laws that would be suggested by the president.
Do you think this is a fantasy and it would not be possible for Erdoğan to keep on walking, especially with the HDP? Then it might be useful to think of what happened right after the June 2015 elections, when Erdoğan dumped the proxy dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) through the HDP in pursuit of a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem and to bring an end to terrorism, allying with the MHP to win the November 2015 elections.
“Never say never” is one of the foundations of Turkish Politics 101.
One way or another, it is safely possible to conclude Erdoğan has begun working on his plans for if he maintains the presidency but loses parliamentary support.