Seizing an election

Seizing an election

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu appeared before the cameras on Aug. 17 to say that the formation of a coalition government between his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and Devlet Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) was not possible. The announcement came after a meeting of two-and-a-half hours.

Davutoğlu had made a similar announcement last week after meeting with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP). He had earlier stated that he would not consider any partnership with the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Under normal circumstances, (ie. according to the constitution and Turkey’s political traditions), Davutoğlu is now supposed to return the mandate to form a government to President Tayyip Erdoğan, so the latter can - and should - give the mandate to the second largest party group leader in parliament, which in this case is the CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu. Then, at the end of the 45-day constitutional deadline (Aug. 23), the president would have the power to call for a rerun of the June 7 election, which saw the AK Parti lose its parliamentary majority for the first time in 13 years.

Not that there is any viable combination in sight, but since last week the CHP has been calling on Davutoğlu to return the mandate to Erdoğan, and for Erdoğan to hand it onto Kılıçdaroğlu for the sake of democratic principles.

Yesterday, a reporter asked Davutoğlu whether he would return the mandate now, after he said that it was now up to the president to decide whether or not to go for another election, according to Article 116 of the constitution. No, Davutoğlu said, he was not going to give back the mandate now. On Aug. 18 (today), a ceremony was due where the retiring chief of general staff was set to hand over the office to his successor; the next day Davutoğlu was due to chair the executive committee meeting of his party; and then he would consult the president and “take steps according to those consultations, returning the mandate if necessary.”

That could be vaguely interpreted as Davutoğlu forcing Erdoğan to use his powers, instead of undertaking the almost impossible mission of winning an early election decision from parliament.

But if it is considered that the final deadline expires on Sunday, that practically means Erdoğan will be allowing Davutoğlu to have used the entire 45-day period to ultimately say no coalition is possible. It would be like a joke to give the mandate to Kılıçdaroğlu for just the last one or two days.

The president has already used every opportunity he has - and created opportunities if there weren’t any - to extend the AK Parti’s time in actual power, despite the party losing its parliamentary majority. Only in that way is it possible for him to exercise extended executive powers, as if Turkey has shifted from the current parliamentary system to the strong presidential one that Erdoğan wants. He said on Aug. 14 that because he was elected by the people last year, there was already a de facto change in the administrative system in Turkey and all he needs now is a new constitution. This statement came despite the fact he has no parliamentary power to do that and despite the fact that no polls are hinting that he will be able to achieve it in a new parliamentary formation.

Before June 7, opposition parties raised worries about the seizure of votes or ballot boxes in certain areas. Those worries proved largely void, but nobody expected the seizure of an entire election by simply ignoring the outcome.