Erdoğan optimizing his power game amid killings

Erdoğan optimizing his power game amid killings

Right after the news President Tayyip Erdoğan was going to meet Parliamentary Speaker İsmet Yılmaz to discuss an interim government to take the country to another election in six months, the news hit the wires about the killing of eight Turkish soldiers in a bomb ambush near the eastern city of Siirt by suspected militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

That was only another link in the chain of terror taking the lives of soldiers, police officers and civilians in the predominantly Kurdish populated east and southeast of the country since July 20, when two policemen were killed in their sleep by suspected PKK militants in Ceylanpınar near the Syrian border, practically ending the de facto cease-fire between the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government and the PKK thanks to the dialogue started in 2012 in pursuit of a political solution.

Because of the reciprocal escalation of attacks by both PKK militants and government forces, in a rather short period of time the entire picture has turned upside down. The PKK has been declaring autonomy in towns, trying to deny entry by digging trenches across roads and booby-trapping them, while special operations police have been carrying out raids supported by helicopters, allegedly torturing the suspects they arrest amid statements from both Ankara and Kandil (in northern of Iraq where the PKK has its HQ) with threats of going all the way down.

Right before the attack killed eight more soldiers, Erdoğan also announced Turkey was swiftly heading for an election. In the same widely-televised public address, Erdoğan also strongly slammed all opposition parties, bringing an end to all of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s efforts for a coalition government. 

”He came to power through an election and he is trying everything not to leave power through an election,” said Haluk Koç, the spokesman for the Republican People’s Party (CHP), during a press conference right after the news of the attack and Erdoğan’s call to the parliamentary speaker.

Being the head of the CHP delegation which carried out the failed coalition talks with the AK Parti, Koç ruled out the CHP taking part in an interim government for elections, reminding that the CHP was ready for a long-term reformist coalition with the AK Parti for the good of the country. Koç openly accused Erdoğan of undermining the coalition efforts.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli had earlier ruled out their participation in an election government. Now the only party open to take part in an election government with the AK Parti is the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), but neither Erdoğan nor Davutoğlu want them; Erdoğan denounces them as the “political extension of the separatist terrorist organization,” implying the PKK.

According to MHP sources talking to Hürriyet, Bahçeli, who used to be for a re-election up until a few weeks ago, had asked PM Davutoğlu whether it was a good idea to go to an early election under the current security situation in Turkey, as the last round of talks failed with the MHP as well. The answer apparently came from Erdoğan.

Erdoğan was not pleased with the results of the June 7 election. He was hoping that an AK Parti government would let him enjoy full executive powers as the administrative regime was shifted from the current parliamentary one to the strong presidential that he desired through a constitutional change. But far from having a constitutional majority to change the constitution, the AK Parti lost the parliamentary majority to set up its own government.

Both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu see the main reason as the HDP exceeding the 10 percent national threshold and entering parliament with an effective presence, spoiling Erdoğan’s power game.

Erdoğan wants to have those elections in order to try his chance once again to keep the power he built in 13 years of AKP rule and he wants to do that in synchronicity with the G-20 summit on Nov. 15-16 in Turkey, where he would host world leaders, hoping that could help his image in the country. It seems as if Erdoğan is fixed on that single target of keeping his power safe under all circumstances.