Power pendulum swings toward new election in Turkey

Power pendulum swings toward new election in Turkey

In an unexpected move a day before a key meeting on coalition possibilities with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made a call on Aug. 9 for a united political stance against violence.

Davutoğlu said “all political leaders” should join the call to abandon arms and protect democracy. The call comes a day after the Istanbul headquarters of PM Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) came under fire by unidentified gunmen who injured a party employee. 

The jargon of “abandoning arms” is generally used by the government in reference to the actions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Davutoğlu did not mention the name of the PKK, but the move seems like an attempt to corner the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is focused on the Kurdish issue, in the Turkish parliament, since Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP has already publicly asked the PKK to stop acts of terror and abandon arms.

Davutoğlu said he was going to talk about the issue with Kılıçdaroğlu during a meeting on Aug. 10 that will also discuss coalition possibilities. The timing of the statement, though, could raise eyebrows in the CHP ranks who suspect that the AK Parti has just been playing with time.   

The time of the invitation from PM Davutoğlu to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu signals a long meeting anyway. 

It is at 6 p.m. According to Turkish customs, one might think that it will be extended over dinner. The meeting will be 1+1; that means only Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik, who headed the AK Parti delegation in the “exploratory” talks, and Deputy Chairman Haluk Koç of the CHP will be with their leaders. 

Kılıçdaroğlu is the one who is going to listen to the decision of Davutoğlu whether he is still willing to establish a grand coalition between the conservative AK Parti and the social democratic CHP.

Mahir Ünal, a parliamentary spokesman for the AK Parti, said the meeting would not be a “take it or leave it” meeting. But possibly having become fed up with the AK Parti’s playing with time since the election, CHP Secretary-General Gürsel Tekin said Aug. 8 that if Davutoğlu does not give a clear during today’s meeting, then he should give the mandate back to the president the next day, so that Kılıçdaroğlu can try his chance.

Well, there would be 12 days left until Aug. 23, the constitutional 45-day deadline, but there is no visible scenario for the CHP to establish a government. Actually the hopes are dim in the CHP ranks for a coalition. Kılıçdaroğlu said recently that he believed Davutoğlu was sincerely in favor of a grand coalition but that President Tayyip Erdoğan would not let him to do so. Kılıçdaroğlu made a call for his MPs to convene with party executives on Aug. 12 with the agenda of getting ready for another election; talking about a coalition would be a surprise, depending on what Davutoğlu has to say.

On the election front, the picture is complicated, too. There have been two people asking for a rerun of the elections from day one; President Erdoğan and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, albeit for different reasons.

Bahçeli’s political priority since the June 7 elections is to make the presence of the HDP which is focused on the Kurdish problem, in the parliament dysfunctional. His number-one condition for forming a coalition with the AK Parti has been an immediate end to the government’s dialogue with the PKK for a political settlement to the problem. Bahçeli thinks if the elections are repeated under circumstances in which the government puts pressure on the HDP (which it is doing thanks to the resumed acts of terror by the PKK), the HDP’s votes could go down and the MHP’s up.

Erdoğan’s priority is not to lose full control over the state apparatus which he has managed to maintain after 13 years in power. He knows well that any coalition means sharing power and the CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu, for example, would share the power with Davutoğlu but not with him. That’s why Erdoğan wanted to go to another election, hoping that this time AK Parti can regain its power so that he can enjoy his de facto presidency, if not de jure.

But according to the information in the political backstage, all three polls Erdoğan has asked for recently showed the HDP is not likely to go below the 10 percent national threshold and that AK Parti is not likely to regain the majority, that is 276 seats.

However, Erdoğan’s political background suggests that instead of accepting the truth, he is likely try everything possible to alter it. 

The possibility of continuation of military operations against the PKK in the same context gets automatic backing from the MHP.

Bahçeli said on Aug. 8 that if the government decides for an immediate elec-ion, he would support an election government by Davutoğlu. (Bahçeli had previously asked for Nov. 15, which coincides with the G-20 Summit in Antalya, when many world leaders will be in Turkey.)

Under the circumstances, hearing an agreement on an AK Parti-CHP coalition today would really be a surprise.