Foreign policy could lock up AKP-CHP talks

Foreign policy could lock up AKP-CHP talks

As the Turkish military plays with time to fulfil a government directive to intervene in Syria in order to establish a security strip there, foreign policy issues’ importance rise in the agenda of coalition talks between the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), which are  expected to start later this week.

Before the Syrian angle had surfaced, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s hard choice was whether or not to continue the Kurdish peace dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and focus on coalition possibilities with the CHP or drop it and focus on coalition talks with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The Syrian angle is directly related with the Turkish stance regarding the presence of PKK’s sister in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Islamic state of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), so foreign policy and security issues seem to be considered as part of the same package.

In preliminary assessments before the talks, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP leader, has told to his close aides he could give up the idea of being a coalition partner, if the CHP could make a visible difference in government policies, according to party sources.

“We cannot give a picture to voters that the CHP is now sharing the responsibility of what we have been criticizing for all these years” Kılıçdaroğlu reportedly said. “That is why we have to listen to Davutoğlu carefully and make up our minds accordingly.”

Kılıçdaroğlu thinks foreign policy is a leading topic that can tell people a difference was made with the CHP’s inclusion in power. The first action CHP thinks to make is an immediate shift in the Syrian policy, which can make that difference visible. “It could be hard for an AKP minister or PM to go to Egypt after all those bitter words and normalize relations,” Kılıçdaroğlu reportedly told his close circle. “But we can go anywhere and tell them that Turkey is on a course of normalization. That applies for the European Union as well.”

With those words, it is obvious that the CHP demands would not be limited to foreign ministry alone. In past experience, the leader of the lesser coalition partner assumed the deputy prime minister position, which was also combined with the Foreign Ministry. But now it seems Kılıçdaroğlu is looking for a better representation in the National Security Board (MGK). So separating the Foreign Ministry from the deputy prime minister post could mean another chair in the MGK. The CHP would also want at least one of either the Justice or Interior Ministries, which are also represented in the MGK.

Another area in which the CHP wants to “make a difference” is social policies, in order to provide better conditions to the economically disadvantaged layers. One of Kılıçdaroğlu’s popular promises during the election campaign was to give an additional salary for retired people on religious holidays, the first one of which will be celebrated in three weeks’ time.