The worst-case scenario for Erdoğan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan could not separate himself from domestic politics even during his China-Indonesia trip, rocking coalition talks between the delegations of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) with his words.
Thanks to the time difference between the East and West ends of the Asian continent, hours after CHP spokesman Haluk Koç’s remarks about the improvements in the talks on July 30 evening, Turkey woke up with Erdoğan’s words on July 31 highlighting his distrust in coalition governments and telling Davutoğlu - without giving his name - the best way was to set up a minority government if possible and go to another election as soon as possible.
He never did hide his disappointment with the results of the June 7 election, which did not bring the system shift he desired from a parliamentary one to a strong presidential one. Moreover, the AK Parti lost the parliamentary majority to establish a single-party government. Erdoğan partly puts the blame on the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) performance in the election and particularly the slogan of its co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, who launched his campaign by challenging Erdoğan, saying, “We will not let you be that president,” referring to the strong presidential system Erdoğan wanted so much.
The HDP had been in a diplomacy shuttle between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for three years in pursuit of a political solution for Turkey’s chronic Kurdish problem. But after the election, the talks which had been put on hold during the election campaign and especially after Demirtaş’s remarks did not resume. Instead, a war of words started, which has turned into the resumption of violence by fresh acts of terrorism by the PKK on military and police officers. In return, the government started to retaliate by massive air force attacks on PKK military camps in northern Iraq near the Turkish border. Those coincided both with a Turkish deal with the U.S. to open its air bases, including the strategic Incirlik air base, and with Turkey adding its air forces to the U.S.-led coalition to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), in which the PKK’s Syrian sister party, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), plays an important role.
Therefore everything became linked up. If there is no coalition government by Aug. 23 (at the end of the 45-day mandate period), the president has the authority to repeat the election. But in that case he has to establish an interim government for the election, to which he has to get deputies from each party with respect to their representation, including the HDP. There are two main reasons why he doesn’t want that:
1- He believes if he gives ministries to the HDP, which he accuses of being an “extension of the terrorist organization,” meaning the PKK, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) would use that as propaganda material against the AK Parti through their shared grassroots.
2- He worries that in such a government, even for a limited time, the ministry files which had been in AK Party hands for the last 13 years would fall into the competition’s hands, which could lead to the opening of many probes, including security and corruption matters, as the country heads toward an election.
For the same reason he doesn’t favor a “Grand Coalition” between the AK Parti and the CHP, which would mean losing control over the state apparatus for him.
But the sole purpose of Erdoğan’s desire to repeat the election is to try the chance one more time to see whether the AK Parti could win the parliamentary majority once again, ignoring the June 7 ballot box results. Since he puts the majority of the blame on the HDP, he thinks pushing the HDP back under the unfair 10 percent election threshold could help; ironically, the PKK’s actions help Erdoğan denounce the HDP.
That is why Erdoğan is putting pressure on Davutoğlu to come up with a minority government, preferably with the help of the MHP, to take the country to another election, in order to avoid his worst-case scenario: losing full control over the administration.