Defeat means different things for the president and Turkish PM

Defeat means different things for the president and Turkish PM

Political polarization has escalated in Turkey as the country is heading for a critical parliamentary elections on June 7.

The political tension gained a violent dimension on March 31 when an Istanbul prosecutor, Mehmet Selim Kiraz, was murdered during a terrorist attack. Kiraz had been investigating the use of excessive police force against demonstrators during the Gezi protests in 2013.

Following Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s barring of reporters of newspapers that printed the photo of the prosecutor when he was taken hostage by the terrorists from covering the man’s funeral on April 1, a number of pro-government papers targeted on April 3 Aydın Doğan, the honorary chairman of Turkey’s independent and most influential Doğan Media Group (to which the Hüriyet Daily News belongs as well) as someone who masterminds and benefits from terrorism. Doğan himself has been on the target list of terrorist groups for years.

On April 4, the bus carrying the players of Turkey’s popular Fenerbahçe football club was opened fire on, wounding the driver; a further disaster was averted at the last minute when the bus was prevented from driving off the viaduct. The players were on their way to the airport of the eastern Black Sea province of Trabzon after winning a league match 5-1 against the football club of neighboring Rize, the home town of President Tayyip Erdoğan. The government is considering even postponing the league.

Those are only two examples of tension spreading in different layers of society outside the boundaries of politics.

On April 7, the political parties have to submit their list of candidates for the 550-seat parliament to the Supreme Election Board (YSK). The law gives the right to the leaders of the parties to determine all the names without preliminary elections among their members.

All party leaders are stressed nowadays in finalizing their candidate lists to get the most possible votes and produce the least possible damage to inner-party balances, but among those, Davutoğlu is likely to be the most strained leader, since the words win and defeat have different meanings for them.
For Erdoğan, a win means an election victory for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) either to change the constitution which would bring a strong presidential model for him through a parliamentary vote, something necessitating 367 MPs, or taking it to take a referendum, which requires 330 deputies.

Davutoğlu would like to see more votes for his party as well, but failing to lead to a constitutional change doesn’t mean a defeat for him as it is; he can still form a single-party government if the AK Parti wins at least 276 seats in parliament.

Erdoğan gives the impression that any result for the AK Parti that falls short of providing a strong mandate for a presidency, even if there would again be a single party government, would be a defeat.

Both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu know that if the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is focused on the Kurdish problem, gets over the unjust 10 percent election threshold, it is not possible in practice to get 330 in a four-party parliament, even if the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) cannot increase their votes at all.

Under those circumstances, Davutoğlu’s winning the elections could mean a defeat for Erdoğan.
It is true that Davutoğlu had to say that a constitutional change with a presidential model would be among the AK Parti’s election promises. But also some AK Parti members like Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and former President Abdullah Gül have expressed concerns about Erdoğan’s way given the vague separation of powers and weak checks-and-balances that have been mentioned.

The point here is whether Erdoğan could digest such a defeat and in order not to be in such a position, will he ask Davutoğlu to step aside and leave both the election campaign and (the main body of the) candidate lists to him?