Gray scenarios in Ankara backstage

Gray scenarios in Ankara backstage

White scenarios are almost clear as Turkey has only six days left until the crucial Nov. 1 re-elections, amid an ongoing decision-making process to bring an end to the Syrian civil war and its consequential immigrant crisis, which has started to hit the European Union.

Almost all public opinion surveys indicate an outcome similar to the June 7 elections. That is, a four-party parliament; despite the high hopes of President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is not likely to be pushed below the 10 percent threshold.

Taking that as the highest probability, the AK Parti is now focused on producing a parliamentary majority (276 out of 550 seats) out of that combination, which is only be possible by a small margin, if it is possible at all.

AKP majority rule would be a relief for Erdoğan, who plans to exercise extensive executive powers as if the regime turns into a presidential one, assuming no objection will come from an AK Parti government.

If not, according to white scenarios, possible coalition combinations include the AK Parti with the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) or the HDP.

If there is no coalition, either through the failure of talks or through deterrent statements by Erdoğan, as was the case of after June 7 elections, Erdoğan could take the country to another re-election. Doable according to the constitution but not recommendable, taking into consideration the level of polarization in the country, which has also been struck by acts of terror by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with possible negative influences on the economy.

From that point on begins the zone of gray scenarios in the Turkish political backstage. 

I am not considering the rumors about “playing with ballot boxes” by, for example, detaining voluntary observers of the civic initiative “Oy ve Ötesi” (Vote and Beyond) with accusations of working for the success of the HDP or worse, helping the PKK. We are not talking about black-op scenarios here but political ones. 

Those scenarios are gray because all of them involve varying degrees of plausible deniability. Yet, all of them are based on the same assumption that Erdoğan would never let a coalition government (especially with the CHP) rule the country because it could ruin his targets of ruling the country single-handedly with weakened checks-and-balances. 

An influential pro-Erdoğan Islamist writer, Abdurrahman Dilipak, said at an AK Parti meeting in Toronto, Canada, last week that if Erdoğan gains the presidential powers he wants, he could start acting like the caliph for all Muslims and even allocate delegation rooms for them in the posh presidential palace in Ankara.

The first of those scenarios has been denied and condemned by Davutoğlu himself already, which is to transfer MPs from other parties if the AK Parti comes out slightly below the 276-seat hurdle in order to close the gap. There have been a number of such examples in Turkish democracy before, the worst which is known as the “Güneş Motel Affair” (after the Istanbul hotel where secret bargaining took place) in which Bülent Ecevit gave ministries to 10 MPs who had resigned from the Justice Party (AK) in order to establish a CHP government late 1977. Davutoğlu says his party would never use such unethical ways.

Another gray scenario is that Erdoğan may not give the mandate to form a government to Davutoğlu, whether it be a one-party or a coalition government, due to trust issues. AK Parti circles deny the scenario on the record and see it as “not even worthy of discussion.” Sources close to Erdoğan, on the other hand, point out that the constitution allows it, without confirming it on a name basis.

The third gray scenario on the Ankara political backstage is the most complicated one.

According to the Article 114 of the constitution, the office of the current “temporary government” designed for carrying out elections continues until the new parliament assembles, which should be right after the Nov. 1 elections. It is not clear what will happen after that, since Turkey has never experienced a re-election and a temporary government before; it is not crystal clear in the constitution as well.

The question is whether Erdoğan can appoint a minority AK Parti government, if the AK parti cannot regain the majority. Will he play with time until the G20 Summit in Antalya on Nov. 15-16 is over (where he will host world leaders at a junction of important international developments as the Turkish leader with no effective government to challenge his executive powers) and take the country to another election if the government fails to get the vote of confidence?

In any case, if there will be a vote of confidence and Erdoğan’s political engineering produces the outcome he desires, there will definitely be a new Turkey.