Expect the unexpected from new Turkish parliament

Expect the unexpected from new Turkish parliament

It was expected that the new Turkish parliament would fail to elect a new speaker in the first two rounds of voting on June 30, when a two thirds majority was needed.

But all the bets are open for the two final rounds, which will take place today, July 1.

There are four party groups in parliament and all of them have nominated candidates.

The chances are low for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) candidates, as both parties have only 80 seats each in the 550-seat parliament. But they could play key roles depending on the backstage bargaining.

İsmet Yılmaz, the defense minister of the outgoing Ahmet Davutoğlu government, is the candidate for the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), which lost its ability to form a single-party government in the June 7 general election. The AK Parti still has 258 seats, and Yılmaz still has the best chance to be elected as the speaker of parliament. This is because in the fourth round only a simple majority will be sought between the two candidates that received the highest number of votes in the third round.

That second candidate is likely to be Deniz Baykal, the former chairman of the social democratic Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP), which has 132 seats. But as Baykal is currently chairing the voting sessions, (as the most senior member of parliament), he is not able to use his own vote.

That single vote is not likely to change the result. More is needed if Baykal is to be elected, which depends on support from the MHP and the HDP, or even hidden support from the AK Parti.

This last sentence may sound strange, after Davutoğlu vowed yesterday that his party would support Yılmaz until the end. However, despite denials from all leaders that there is no link between the speaker elections and the coalition talks expected to start formally next week, there is an equation to be made.

For example, if Yılmaz is elected it will not be an obstacle for a possible Grand Coalition between the AK Parti and the CHP. But if Baykal is elected, it would be a strong indication for a possible coalition between the two.

If Davutoğlu decides to gift the speaker position to the CHP in return for a coalition, there are two scenarios that could make it possible: The MHP and the HDP could vote for Baykal in order to topple the AK Parti’s domination in parliament. But MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli says that if the Kurdish problem-focused HDP declares support for Baykal in the last round then the MHP deputies will not also vote for Baykal; the MHP does not want to be in the same picture as the HDP, even if only indirectly.

HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş says it is time to end the AK Parti’s domination in parliament, but he also said he would support his own party’s candidate until the end. This is a clever move, because if the HDP does not declare support for Baykal that could lead the MHP to support him as well.

Either way, we will find out what happens on the afternoon of July 1, which could be full of surprises for Turkey’s near future.