A new page is needed in Turkish politics

A new page is needed in Turkish politics

The passing away of Turkey’s 9th president Süleyman Demirel marks the end of an era in Turkish politics. Demirel was the last of those politicians who made their way up through the close-circuit of Turkey’s fledgling parliamentary system, amid the pains of transition from a rural to an urban society and as macro politics was dominated by the Cold War.

It was Demirel who, as president between 1993 and 2000, had the chance to make Turkey become a regional player in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1992. 

After Demirel, Turkey hit a major financial crisis in 2001, which later turned into an opportunity to renew its economic infrastructure and led to a search for stability through the single-party government of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in 2002, led by (now 12th president) Tayyip Erdoğan.

In Turkey’s recent general election, Erdoğan aimed to endorse a shift from the current parliamentary system to an executive presidential system with weaker checks and balances, through a constitutional change. This essentially derailed the June 7 election from its original course, but the Turkish voters put the brakes on and the dominant-party role of the AK Parti came to an end.

Now a new page may be opened in Turkish politics. The AK Parti has lost parliamentary majority, but it has still the largest group in the Turkish parliament, with 258 seats in the 550-seat house. The social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) keeps its secondary position with 132 seats, while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) share the third place with 80 seats each. This is not an easy equation to solve, but the message of the voters is clear: The parties must talk and compromise through a coalition government.

The biggest responsibility falls upon the shoulders of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who is likely to receive the first mandate to form a coalition on June 24, a day after the opening of the new parliament. CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has tried hard to form a coalition with both the MHP and the HDP, but this is not likely to happen - as those two parties are anathema to each other. 

If no parties can establish a coalition within 45 days from June 24, it is the president’s constitutional right to call for an early election. There is no guarantee that this would produce a substantially different result, but it could mean that Turkey will lose important time - at a time when European economies are still unable to get over their crisis, which is negatively affecting Turkey. That is why many business circles are urging Davutoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu to settle for a “grand coalition,” which is currently hampered by deep trust issues. However, both seem to be in favor of a fresh election within a few months, which would be an opportunity to open a new page in Turkish politics.