Possible election scenarios in Turkey
The June 24 early election will not only open a new and unchartered political geography for Turkey, it will but also help complete the transformation of President Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti).
There are three scenarios that we can speculate on for the election process:
1- If Erdoğan is not re-elected and the government bloc loses its parliamentary majority, the new parliament is likely to lift the state of emergency as one of its first steps. Perhaps under a new president, parliament would start working on a new constitution. This new constitution would likely not mean going back to the hybrid system of the past, perhaps instead moving to a French-style semi-presidential system giving more power to the judiciary and parliament.
2- If Erdoğan is re-elected but the AK Parti loses its parliamentary majority, a series of uncertainties and political rows can be expected. For example, if parliament lifts the state of emergency then the president, as head of state, could simply declare another one, with the process getting lost in a loop until Erdoğan declares another election, accusing parties of causing instability in the country.
3- If Erdoğan is re-elected and the alliance between the AK Parti and Devlet Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also wins a parliamentary majority then Erdoğan is likely to move fast in his project to restructure Turkey’s entire state apparatus according to the executive presidential model, giving all executive powers to the presidency. Depending on foreign policy and economic circumstances, this could either mean tougher measures in Turkey or a cooling down period and better relations with the West.
Whatever happens, there will be only one scenario for the AK Parti after the election: It will become Erdoğan’s more than ever before. The June 24 elections are likely to transform the AK Parti so that loyalty to Erdoğan takes place over loyalty to the party’s political principles, with the leader himself embodying those principles - or the “cause” - itself.
This process effectively started in 2014 when Erdoğan was first elected president. Back then one of the scenarios was to make Abdullah Gül the head of the party, as his presidential term was ending. But seeing that as being inappropriate for his strategy, Erdoğan pointed to then foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as his successor. He also hand-picked the AK Party’s executive board, without giving much initiative to Davutoğlu. That move meant sidelining not only Gül but also Bülent Arınç, the former speaker of parliament who was in the founding triumvirate of the AK Parti. Davutoğlu faced a similar fate in 2016, when he was removed as prime minister and replaced by Binali Yıldırım, who works with the discipline of his engineer profession.
On April 27, a few days after meeting with Gül, Davutoğlu said he personally would not be a candidate in the elections and has no post-election expectations, adding that there is no option for him but to support the AK Parti. There are now reports that some of the previously important names in the AK Parti - like its former economic tsar Ali Babacan and Beşir Atalay, the mastermind of the “Kurdish opening” - will be left out of the party’s election candidate lists.
These figures are likely to be replaced by new names who have made their entrance into politics under Erdoğan, and who have no political allegiance other than to the president. This is likely be presented to the public as handing over the flag to a new and dynamic generation, as part of “new Turkey” that Erdoğan is aiming for.