Davutoğlu aims for 55+, but how about -45?

Davutoğlu aims for 55+, but how about -45?

While launching on April 15 the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Parti) campaign for the June 7 general election, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu did not vow any ambitious projects, such as a third bridge over the Bosphorus, a gigantic third airport for Istanbul, or a “crazy” Istanbul channel parallel to the Bosphorus - such as then Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan did when launching his own campaigns.

There might be a consistency in this, as Davutoğlu has apparently now agreed with President Erdoğan on giving all executive power to the president, with fewer checks and balances, via a new constitution to be written after the elections. That pledge is officially in the election declaration of his party.

He is pretty sure that he will have no problem doing that, as he has set the AK Parti a target higher than Erdoğan ever got. When he mocked main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu over his 35 percent election target, Davutoğlu said, “He even dreams small. We are running toward 55 or 60 percent.”

Erdoğan was elected president with 52 percent of the votes on Aug. 10, 2014, the highest vote rate he has ever received. The highest AK Parti vote ever came during the last parliamentary elections on June 15, 2011, which was nearly 50 percent. This gave the party 326 seats in the 550-seat Turkish parliament. That was not enough for a two-thirds majority (367 seats) necessary to change the constitution through a parliamentary vote; nor was it enough to take the constitutional change to a referendum, which needs a three-fifths (330 seats) majority.

The AK Parti vote in the local elections on March 30, 2014 was 45.6 percent, against the CHP’s 27.8 percent and the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) 15.2 percent. In the meantime, the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has recently risen in politics and is now challenging the unfair 10 percent threshold to demonstrate a higher profile in parliament.

Even if the HDP is unable to exceed the 10 percent threshold and gets only 9 percent, as it did in the presidential elections, (and assuming that the CHP and MHP will not be able to increase their votes to 40-something percent), the political arithmetic still fails to sustain Davutoğlu’s estimates. Actually, according to media reports seemingly leaked from the AK Parti HQ, polling companies working for the AK Parti predict that it will get around 45-46 percent.

But there is another scenario. According to sources from within the AK Parti who ask not to be named, Davutoğlu could face strong criticism from Erdoğan and his potential rivals in the party if the AK Parti’s performance on June 7 drops either below 45 percent or below 300 seats in parliament. Sources claim that there was a consensus in the party that these were the minimum limits for Davutoğlu’s success. If it cannot reach these limits, we might have a very interesting AK Parti congress in the pipeline, at which Davutoğlu’s performance could be questioned even if he forms another AK Parti government. Erdoğan will read any result that does not make him the super-president as a defeat.

Here’s another scenario; it has a lower probability but it still exists on paper: The HDP gets into parliament and the CHP and/or the MHP increase(s) their votes a little. In that case, every vote rate around or below 42 percent could put at risk the prospect of the AK Parti forming a single-party government.

Davutoğlu’s election target of 55+ seems very difficult to achieve unless something disastrous happens to the HDP to prevent it from getting even close to 10 percent, and unless something similarly bad happens to the CHP and MHP that damages their base votes. For this reason, a secure, fair and free election atmosphere is being questioned more than ever before, particularly after the past week’s major electricity cut and the Ağrı incidents last weekend.