Davutoğlu confident of his first test in Parliament
The Turkish government is asking Parliament today, Oct. 2, for permission to send Turkish soldiers abroad and to receive foreign soldiers, while also opening up air space and facilities in Turkey for the U.S.-led front against the terrorist activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu seems confident that there will be no difficulty in getting a parliamentary mandate for the government to act for a year, in what will be his first test for control over his party’s parliamentary group.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) has 312 seats in the 550-seat Turkish Parliament. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), with 52 seats, has already announced its support for the motion. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is focused on the Kurdish problem and has 27 seats, has said it will vote “no,” while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), with 130 seats, is likely to reject the motion too.
The MHP support was a relief for Davutoğlu, meaning that he won’t have to recall 46 AK Parti MPs who are currently in Mecca as pilgrims.
Keep in mind the flop back in 2003 when a third of the AK Parti group voted down a similar motion, along with the CHP opposition, for Turkish military involvement in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which caused a major crisis between Ankara and Washington.
At the time there were speculation that most of the AK Parti deputies who had rejected the motion were of Kurdish origin and did not want Turkish soldiers to go into Iraq where the military headquarters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was (and is) located.
The circumstances are different now. The government has been in a dialogue with the PKK and its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, for the last two years in pursuit of a political settlement, and is also on good political and economic terms with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq.
The strained atmosphere amid the clashes between ISIL and the Kurds, both in Iraq and Syria (where the Syrian sister of the PKK, the Democratic Union Party, PYD, has been carrying out the fight) was relieved slightly after the leader of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş, crossed the border into the PYD stronghold of Kobane against ISIL on Sept. 30 and had a meeting with PM Davutoğlu yesterday. That did not change the Demirtaş's vote, but was enough to lead to toned-down remarks. Also, right before the meeting with Demirtaş, Davutoğlu met with his MPs from eastern and southeastern provinces, most of whom are Kurdish in origin.
It is also important that, in the Cabinet meeting on Sept. 30, when the motion was given its final shape, the government decided to set up 11 commissions in different fields under the title of “Solution Process Board.”
In order not to fall into the same pit once again, the AK Parti is apparently taking preemptive measures in order to both secure an easy mandate by Parliament and to demonstrate new steps on the Kurdish issue.
The parliamentary vote will show how effective those measures will be.