AKP still in de facto power despite elections
One month after Turkey’s general election, in which the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) lost its ability to establish a single-party government, coalition talks have still yet to start, amid protests from two opposition parties.
Social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş have both strongly criticized President Tayyip Erdoğan over the ongoing delay, which has decreased prospects for a coalition government being formed.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli does not want to be part of any coalition anyway and has asked for an early election in November if a “grand coalition” between the AK Parti and the CHP cannot be formed.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, meanwhile, who handed in his resignation on June 10 in order to allow talks to start, has remained silent about the fact that he has still not received the mandate to start coalition talks from the president, as the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in parliament.
All previous presidents have usually given the mandate on the same day as they receive the resignation of the outgoing prime minister, or on the next day. But referring to a clause in the 116th Article of the Constitution, Erdoğan said he may give the mandate to Davutoğlu once the election of the new parliament speaker is completed. He then said he would wait until the formation of the administrative board of the speaker. İsmet Yılmaz, Davutoğlu’s former defense minister, was elected speaker on July 1, but he only had his first meeting on July 7, almost a week after his election, which has contributed to the delay.
According to the debate in the political backstage, even if Erdoğan gives Davutoğlu the mandate this week, the talks could be interrupted first by the religious festival of Eid and then by the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meetings (Aug. 3-5), which are chaired by the prime minister.
As time passes, the contradictions between the opposition parties are deepening. The MHP basically ignores the presence of the HDP, which has the same number of seats in parliament as itself, (80 seats each in the 550-seat chamber). The MHP also refuses to take part in any combination or move if the HDP is also involved. This stance foiled the CHP’s attempts to form an anti-AK Parti bloc with the MHP and the HDP.
Davutoğlu has said a number of times that he will not go to HDP for a coalition unless the HDP gets the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to lay down its arms - something that no Turkish government has succeeded in doing over the last 30-plus years.
Meanwhile, the debate over the election of the parliament speaker has driven a wedge between the CHP and the MHP. The two parties are now engaged in a fierce row, which Kılıçdaroğlu (if not Bahçeli) is trying to play down.
The only viable coalition options remain a partnership between the AK Parti and either the CHP or the MHP.
Bahçeli says his primary condition for a coalition with Davutoğlu would be for the AK Parti to abandon the Kurdish peace process. Considering the peace bid’s strategic value, such a condition may not be worth a short-term coalition for the AK Parti.
A “grand coalition,” as supported by the business community, could indeed be possible. But regarding his desire to be involved in daily political decision-making - despite the Constitution - President Erdoğan would not feel as comfortable under any coalition government as he would under a single-party AK Parti government.
Erdoğan appears likely to push parties for a repeat of elections, possibly in November. By then, he may have the wind of the G-20 Summit in Antalya - when he will be hosting world leaders from Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin - behind him. Such an early election may secure him an AK Parti majority that would allow him to enjoy his de facto semi-presidency, even without a formal constitutional change.