Turkish politics: 2015 could be a better 2007

Turkish politics: 2015 could be a better 2007

“True,” this column admitted as early as eight years ago, “There are probably a million very good reasons why the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) cannot ally in a ‘grand coalition’ after July 22 (2007 parliamentary elections.” (“Why a grand coalition is the healthiest option for Turkey,” Hürriyet Daily News, July 13, 2007.)

“All the same,” it went on, “In an ideal world, it would be in the best interests of Turkey and its Western allies if that mission impossible somehow succeeded …

“On the morning of the July 23 [2007], [then prime minister] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and [then CHP leader] Deniz Baykal will face two options: They will either choose to fight on and further polarize an already dangerously polarized country; or they will have to make difficult personal and political sacrifices, ‘recognize’ each other’s popular support in the name of democracy, and agree to a ‘marriage of convenience,’ for the sake of the country they say they love. 

“Polarization at the magnitude of what we see today has invariably derailed Turkey. In 1960, it was the polarization along DP-CHP lines that eventually inspired a coup; in 1980, it was the polarization along AP-CHP lines that inspired another coup. The word ‘polarization’ does not bring back good memories in modern Turkey’s political history. Polarization has always been the best recipe for Turkey going astray. That word serves no one’s interests - either Turks or their Western friends.” 

Sadly, since those lines appeared here, Mr. Erdoğan has chosen maximum possible polarization from which he benefited until it is now good time, once again, to speak of the virtues of a “grand coalition,” this time out of necessity rather than a utopian fantasy.  

In 2007, this columnist advocated that a grand coalition would be the healthiest option for Turkey because: 
“What should matter is that none of them (the government and main opposition) would be representing an ideology/worldview that can be brushed aside by the other. Though it may be too utopian and forceful, an AKP-CHP marriage of convenience would make the best political representation in parliament. What else could be more democratic than a government representing an estimated 60 percent [today, 66 percent] of the electorate? … 

“There are practical reasons, too. The marriage of convenience itself would build the best checks and balances mechanism for each partner so that they do not go too ideologically insane - or, for that matter, go too corrupt. The opposite attraction could in fact control the partners in their Islamist and secularist extremities. The alliance, by nature, could also make sure the partners ‘prune their eccentricities.’ Plus, the partners can always build a mechanism that would work like an ‘opposition within the government,’ checks and balances within the cabinet… One can fairly assume that the AKP or CHP MPs or local party officials would therefore have to think twice before engaging in corruption, due to the now higher possibility of ‘getting caught and not being tolerated by the central government’ for ideological reasons.

“There would probably be many more reasons why the idea of a grand coalition is best for Turkey - and, to repeat, for its Western allies. But the idea is possibly too improbable and too utopian. [It still looks so, albeit not as distant as it did in 2007.] … The 2007 election could be the ideal opportunity to end or at least ease the dangerous polarization Turkey has been drifting into. But in practice, it probably will not.” It did not. 

Today, the 2015 election may not produce a panacea to make Turkey “perfectly manageable and at peace.” But it has produced a golden opportunity to make it more manageable and politically less violent.