‘Erdoğan wants elections in November’

‘Erdoğan wants elections in November’

The words in the headline were uttered by Celal Doğan after his visit to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan last week. 

Doğan is a Gaziantep deputy for the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). His name is synonymous with Gaziantep, the industrial Turkish city near the border with Syria. His first entry to parliament came in 1977 as a 34-year-old MP from the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP). He later served for years as the mayor of Gaziantep and even the chairman of the Gaziantepspor football club. Indeed, he is a beloved person in his constituency.

Though at opposite ends of the political spectrum, Doğan and Erdoğan have known each other for years. In our telephone conversation yesterday, Doğan said they had been in contact on a number of occasions.

Doğan said that as a seasoned politician he wanted to “contribute to the normalization of tension” in Turkey and wanted to talk to Erdoğan about “certain concerns.” He said he first asked for the HDP’s opinion on the appointment and then applied to the presidency. Erdoğan gave the appointment in short notice and Doğan visited him on June 30, a day before the election of İsmet Yılmaz as the new Speaker of Parliament.

There were two main topics on the agenda, (well two-and-a-half if you count the environmental problems in Gaziantep).

The first was about the HDP’s concerns over a possible Turkish military incursion into Syria targeting ISIL and possibly also aiming at the border regions held by the Syrian Kurdish group the People’s Defense Units (PYD). 

“I told him that as the HDP we were ready to do everything possible to solve any problem regarding the PYD, if there is indeed one,” Doğan said. 

“That includes claims the PYD is attempting ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Arabs and Turkomans. I suggested to the president that the HDP could act as an intermediary for a Turkish parliamentary delegation from all parties to go to the PYD-held region to make observations, in order to halt any wrongdoings without the need for a military action. Military action into Syria will not be in the best interests of Turkey,” he added.

As Doğan put it, the second major issue of the meeting was “political normalization.” “We believe that the results of the June 7 general election show the need for a coalition government,” he said. 

“Voters asked us to sit and talk to each other for joint solutions. As a party the HDP is not afraid of going to an election right away, but it would not be good for Turkey and it would not even change the result dramatically. Erdoğan told me that he would wait to see what kind of coalition is formed, but my impression is that he wants to repeat the elections. He is leaning toward having another election in November,” Doğan added.

Some have linked Erdoğan’s postponing of giving the formal mandate to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to his desire to have another election, hoping that this time the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) could form a single-party government and Erdoğan’s use of power would not be limited by a coalition partner. 

CHP Spokesperson Levent Gök claimed yesterday that the new Parliament Speaker İsmet Yılmaz was delaying the formation of the parliamentary administrative board, perhaps aiming to play for time. Erdoğan had initially announced that he would give the mandate after parliament elected its new speaker, but then postponed it until the formation of the board. 

When the president finally gives his first mandate, the 45-day clock will start ticking. According to the constitution, Erdoğan will then be able to take Turkey to an election if he believes no government is viable.