Has Erdoğan given up his target so easily?

Has Erdoğan given up his target so easily?

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was pretty clear when he said “We wanted a shift to a presidential system but the people did not approve it” as a summary of the June 7 election in Turkey.

That was actually a self-criticism on behalf of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), since the election campaign had not only focused on sustaining power but also on getting a superior majority in parliament for a new constitution to shift the system from the current parliamentary one into a strong presidential one, as President Tayyip Erdoğan wanted.

It was also a gentle and indirect but public pledge to Erdoğan to stay in the limits of the current constitution, as all other parties have been demanding, and put forward as a condition for a coalition with the AK Parti.

By that time, Erdoğan had already made a short written statement in which he said “all parties” should draw lessons from the election results and should act “responsibly.” But the signals coming from the presidential palace were claiming that Erdoğan could be in favor of another election, for example in November, to try his luck once again for a superior AK Parti majority to achieve his goal.

Yet Erdoğan’s first post-election move did not prove that. After talking to Davutoğlu when he received his resignation - a routine act, since he lost parliamentary majority - Erdoğan made an unexpected move by meeting with Deniz Baykal, the former leader of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Baykal said after the meeting that he saw “Erdoğan open to all coalition possibilities.”

During an evaluation meeting, the AK Parti executive concluded they could work “in harmony” with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in a possible coalition, but they could produce “solutions” in a coalition with the CHP. 

The “solutions” could not only mean better economic figures and better social benefits but also a new constitution (to endorse a parliamentary system, not to bring in a presidential one), which could include a reasonable solution to the Kurdish problem.

But CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is keen on two things: 1- Erdoğan should not interfere in government affairs and should stay in constitutional limits and 2 - He wants to reopen the corruption files which had been closed down by the AK Parti thanks to their parliamentary majority, which they have now lost. Kılıçdaroğlu’s first choice is to remove the AK Parti from power through a coalition with the MHP with the support of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). But MHP head Devlet Bahçeli has ruled out any support for any combination with the HDP; actually his condition for a possible coalition scenario is an immediate stop of the government-led dialogue to find a political solution to the Kurdish problem.

If that were not the problem, the AK party wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to set up a coalition with the MHP. But given the HDP presence in parliament and the presence of the militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the mountains and urban areas, it could lead to worse problems. Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the HDP, said on June 12 that not only the Kurdish Hezbollah but also Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have organized in cells across the country, waiting for orders to attack. Perhaps one has to recall that the PKK is not a philanthropic organization. It cannot be predicted in which way an Islamic/conservative-Turkish nationalist coalition (AK Parti-MHP) could react to an escalation of tension between those groups, if there would be no dialogue between the government and Kurdish groups.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said on June 12 that no parties should have any “red lines” in coalition talks; an indirect call to the MHP. On the other hand, he said there were examples in the past that files against accused ministers could be reopened by parliament (in answer to four ex-ministers forced to resign under accusations of corruption in 2013); that is an indirect call to the CHP.

Former president Abdullah Gül on the other hand made telephone calls to both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu, reportedly saying they should encourage the formation of a coalition rather than pushing forward for snap elections, which could bring more uncertainty to the political and economic scene. That report could be an indication that Erdoğan might not have given up on his original target. After all, he has the constitutional right to take the country to another election if no government is established in 45 days, which will start when he gives the official authority to Davutoğlu first.

There are those in the AK Parti anyway who think that if there would be an early election, say in two years in case a coalition fails, why not have it now? The key to Turkish politics is still in Erdoğan’s hands, despite the election results.