New government, new constitution?

New government, new constitution?

One month and three days after Turkey’s general election, President Tayyip Erdoğan has finally given the mandate to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to form a new government.

Davutoğlu will now either form a coalition government through talks with other party leaders or propose a minority government, which Erdoğan has already declared he would not be in favor of. Actually, a minority government is only a possibility on paper at the moment, with only the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mentioning the possibility of leaving its door open to potential “indirect support” for the AKP, in order “not to leave the country without a government.” 

But binding every move of a Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) minority government to the HDP, while all the time facing harsh criticism from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), may not be favorable to Davutoğlu either.

As of yesterday, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli has adopted a more flexible attitude in appearance, perhaps upon seeing that his party is about to be excluded from all possible coalition scenarios. But that “flexibility” is only over Erdoğan vacating his Presidential Palace, (which Erdoğan wants people to call his presidential “külliye,” or “complex”), and perhaps the reopening of corruption files. There is no flexibility on the MHP’s “red lines” over the Kurdish issue - which Davutoğlu does not want to drop.

CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu underlined yesterday that his main problem regarding a coalition with the AK Parti were deep trust issues. He also asked the government not to use the possibility of holding repeat elections as “blackmail” during the coalition talks.

Davutoğlu said the official “first round of talks” with party leaders would take place before religious festivities marking the end of Ramadan on July 17, next week.

The most viable option for a durable coalition still looks likely to be between the AK Parti and the CHP, a “grand coalition” alla Turca.

Actually, the grassroots of both parties, despite having hard feelings against each other, are in favor of a more democratic constitution. If such a coalition can be based on the concept of writing a new constitution, in which a reasonable solution to the Kurdish problem can also be found, this could be a gain for Turkey, the coalition and for the two individual parties. 

In opinion polls, more than 70 percent of voters say they are in favor of a new constitution.

If Davutoğlu sticks by his words uttered right after the June 7 election that the presidential system debate, which Erdoğan has pushed hard, then there would be no serious dispute left between the AK Parti and the CHP. A constitution endorsing the parliamentary system, clearly separating the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power, and highlighting checks and balances, could easily pass at parliament with the support of the total number of seats of the AK Parti and the CHP.

Such a move would have a positive effect not only on democratic life in Turkey but also in the economy and in international relations, especially with the European Union.

The potential is there. If the party heads can agree and show their leadership, the target of a new constitution could be a way to produce a good result from Turkey’s current confused political picture.