I know what you’ll do this summer
After writing last week that this general election would be something that Turkey would be proud of, I am happily reporting that the outcome may be even better than we expected. And this is a direct effect of the Gezi Park protests that ignited change.
It is no wonder that former head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, was the first person who Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called to chat. Erdoğan showed once again that he is a real pragmatist and he would never shy away from talking to a politician who he personally tarnished and discredited. Surprisingly, the avid Friday prayer-attending Baykal has gained respect among Justice and Development Party (AK Party) voters over time following his gracious exit and latest comeback to politics.
Security and intelligence sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed Baykal’s decades-long presence in Turkish politics. “He IS the state,” one said. “When Erdoğan’s path had to be cleared to reenter politics in the early 2000s, Baykal did not block his way. It was an organizational effort. Whatever Baykal says, whenever he talks to Erdoğan it has a very special meaning.”
Baykal, being a political wolf, expressed openly to Erdogan that an early election would mean big trouble for Turkey’s economy. He also warned the president about making hasty and angry decisions after the election results. In his column, Abdülkadir Selvi of Yeni Şafak wrote that Baykal asked Erdoğan whether there is any guarantee that a snap election would mean a better and more stable result for Turkey. “Early elections are not an issue of gallantry. Let’s be serious and try the coalition options.”
Baykal probably also warned President Erdoğan about moving back within constitutional limits and not meddling in daily politics. For that though, Erdoğan needs a little help. Europe and Turkey’s other allies have deliberately isolated the president in recent months and years. Now, as the G-20 Meetings approach, it would be a great idea to invite Erdoğan to various international forums as a leader and as a speaker - for issues such as fighting poverty, education and health reforms. The president himself should not shy away from these international events, even if he may not be a keynote speaker.
After talking to several European diplomats, I got the sense that they are trying to find options to communicate with the president. My humble advice to Mr. Egemen Bağış, a former EU Minister and Erdoğan’s new advisor, is to use his contacts in the U.K. and Europe to make Erdoğan available and accessible.
Coming back to the coalition options in Turkey, there does not seem to be many to choose from. Investment bankers who I spoke to stressed the urgency and flexibility of the AK Party forming a coalition with the MHP rather than the CHP. The AK Party is still the playmaker in Turkey’s politics and no coalition would be able survive without it. Due to ideological proximity and a similar voter base, it should be much easier for the AK Party and the MHP to form a coalition that could last longer than one-and-a-half years. With the CHP, even though respected names like Kemal Derviş sweeten the deal, the party’s voters will be extremely mad if it enters the coalition for the sake of being in government. With an early election on the horizon, this could further accelerate the exodus of young voters from the CHP.
So my humble take is that despite all the excitement in the CHP ranks about joining government as ministers, they should all just chill a little.