CHP one step ahead but doors not closed on MHP for coalition with AKP
DHA PhotoThe first round of coalition talks has clearly shown the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was eager to join the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a coalition government, while the two other opposition parties, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), have voiced their reluctance.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s low-profile and understated manner and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s constructive and positive approach appears to have helped two ideologically opposed parties overcome psychological barriers in the first round of talks, but forming a coalition government will require further work.
In a long program aired late July 15 on private broadcaster NTV, Davutoğlu made a general assessment of his talks with the three oppositional parties and described the first round as “successful,” as they had bridged a “psychological gap” between the AKP and the three opposition parties, particularly the CHP.
“The psychological gap, the difference between me and Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu or between our teams, has now been considerably reduced in comparison with the situation before my talks,” he said.
Considering the rival parties’ history, it was noteworthy for Davutoğlu to express his contentment with the CHP’s positive approach and accept the establishment of a mechanism to move toward forming a government.
Priority on CHP
“We have agreed on the methodology. Our teams will work and enter into details next week. We have divided the issues under two titles: Those needs to be discussed in the first phase and those in the second. Then two leaders will listen to the results of this work,” he said. “Culture Minister Ömer Çelik and CHP spokesperson Haluk Koç are leading this work. The outcome of this work will tell whether there is a light at the end of the tunnel for a government with the CHP,” Davutoğlu said.
“As we have agreed on the process, it’s easier for us to run it. Everybody knows what to do now,” he said, recalling the 14 principles earlier outlined by Kılıçdaroğlu were not very different form his own.
“I told Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu that eight or nine of these principles are those the AKP agrees to conceptually, two or three are negotiable and one or two could be problematic,” he said.
One detail out of Davutoğlu’s assessment was the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar, which was at its lowest point against the Turkish Lira on the day he met with Kılıçdaroğlu as part of the coalition talks.
Doors not fully closed with MHP
As for the position of the MHP, whose leader openly expressed his unwillingness to form a government, Davutoğlu said he was not of the same opinion as headlines from some newspapers which read “The MHP has closed its doors.”
“Let me be open: This is not right according to what I perceive,” he said, recalling MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s preference was not to take part in a government. Bahçeli had said earlier the message given by the people to his party was to remain as the opposition. “It’s his choice. But did he say something like: ‘There is nothing to talk [about]?’ No, he did not. When I asked whether our teams would continue to talk, he affirmed it and said that would be useful,” the prime minister said.
Davutoğlu, therefore, believes the door is still halfway open with the MHP and he plans to keep Bahçeli engaged in the process.
HDP not a likely partner
Davutoğlu was more open while explaining why a coalition government with the HDP would not be on his horizon. “I would like to see the reflection of my grassroots towards the party I want to form a government with. I have put it very honest. I received no positive reflection from my voters towards the HDP,” he said. The prime minister said he was aiming at bringing a positive agenda to Turkish politics and that’s why he preferred not to respond to critical statements from the HDP.
Although the prime minister made it very clear his priority was to form a government and that he based his game plan on this objective, early elections would be inevitable if his coalition talks fail. Davutoğlu said recent surveys showed the AKP would get over 45 percent of the vote, and therefore would have more than 276 seats in parliament, though he maintained they would respect the will of the people and continue the coalition process.
“But we should first try in line with our respect to the people’s will. We can’t tell the people ‘You made a mistake and now you have to correct it.’ We can’t impose elections on the people. The people made a decision. We will see if they regret it at that time,” he said.
One point Davutoğlu drew attention to is the fact polls would be held at the end of November and from now until election time all political balances would change. “We are in the middle of a ring of fire. A serious mistake committed by an interim government would cause very different results for Turkey,” he said.
Corruption cases and presidential position
Apart from the difficulties of forming a coalition government, there were two other main issues occupying the minds in this process: whether the next government would initiate an effective probe on corruption and graft claims and if it would take steps to urge the president to not violate his constitutional boundaries.
Davutoğlu expressed his satisfaction with the fact that neither the CHP nor the MHP mentioned these issues in the first round of talks. He made his position on the latter matter very clear, saying he would not discuss anything that questions the legitimacy of the president, and any reference would have turned his meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu into “table talk.”
On the former subject, Davutoğlu was more explicit, saying he would not have difficulty dealing with corrupt politicians, even from his own party, on the grounds of his principle that no one is unquestionable.
Davutoğlu’s message was interpreted as he would not regard any attempt to bring four former AKP ministers involved in a corruption probe before the court as something that would kill a coalition government.
“My position on this is very open. No one is exempt from giving account. No one is untouchable.” he said.