Why did Abdullah Gül drop off the race for the presidency? Was he in the race anyway? Why did Bülent Arınç make a comeback from the shadows and meet with the president? Was it a coincidence that Arınç’s son-in-law was released from prison and his former press advisor was no longer required to report to the police weekly? Did Arınç indeed play any significant role in “persuading” Gül to give up hopes of a political comeback? What was the meaning of the statement, “Those who abandon us may not only find fortune in their new endeavors but also lose their place among us?”
If the definition of “coincidence” is a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance, Turkey must be a heaven of coincidences. There are remarkable “coincidences” not only regarding Arınç, his son-in-law, his former press advisor and Gül dropping out of the race, but in many areas and in many developments in the country nowadays.
It was a rather unaccustomed move for Turkish politicians to lend support to each other without receiving something in return. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was naturally shocked like millions of his countrymen when the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader met at midnight on April 21 at an Istanbul hotel with the leader of another political party, listened to her complaints regarding the political authority’s moves to kick her party aside from elections, and surprise—he rang up 15 CHP deputies and asked for their support. Before sunrise, all 15 of those deputies resigned from the CHP and joined the Good (İYİ) Party.
Thus, before the Electoral Board’s scheduled meeting on April 23, during which the electoral eligibility of parties would be decided, the İYİ Party established a parliamentary group, bypassed all obstacles and acquired the right to enter the parliamentary and presidential elections.
Erdoğan, of course was very much angered with the Electoral Board for not making a decision on April 20 and postponing its decision to Monday, opening up the way to a “democratic ailment.” However, the Saturday night meeting and the ensuing developments were all coincidence, were they not?
May 5 is the last day for parties to decide on who they want to nominate for the presidency, while the race for parliamentary candidacies will continue for some more time. In any case, this is a hasty race. Overall, 65 days from the day the election decision was made, the country will not only complete candidate selection and campaigning, but it will also complete voting for both the first-ever full-fledged executive president with no system of checks-and-balances and 600 legislative members.
Of course, it might be asked why Turks will elect a 600-member parliament if technically, the president may bypass it and run the country with decrees alone. Is it even a requirement for the peculiar Turkish democracy to have a legislature?
Who will be the candidate of the opposition if Gül is out of the race? Will the opposition indeed have a joint candidate? The incumbent is so strong and the nation has become so accustomed to his political rhetoric, he would most likely easily emerge victorious irrespective of who the other candidates would be.
However, if the opposition groups act with common sense, allow room for reconciliation and compromise politics, perhaps they would prefer to concentrate on striking the president and the ruling party with the very same tool they devised for an easy victory.
If minor parties engaged in an election alliance will no longer be required to get over 10 percent of the national vote to send deputies to parliament, from left to right, to the Kurds and the CHP must embrace all or at least two coalitions—one led by the CHP and the other should be created by the İYİ Party and offer Turks to vote for their first preference of parties. That is a cunning way for an electoral defeat that might open the era of cohabitation in Turkey.