Towards an Erdoğan-Bahçeli partnership

Towards an Erdoğan-Bahçeli partnership

The Turkish Parliament’s Constitution Commission is scheduled to start debating a draft to change parliament’s internal law on July 18.

The draft was suggested by President Tayyip Erdoğan after the April 16 referendum, which consolidated all executive power in the presidency and increased presidential influence in parliament by allowing the head of state to legally chair a party.

The draft limits the duration of speeches by party spokespeople during legislative work, bars the use of certain words by MPs, and includes measures in the name of speeding up the lawmaking process. 

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been objecting to the changes, saying they would further curb the authority of parliament and further decrease the power of individual MPs.

President Erdoğan has urged his AK Parti deputies to immediately pass the law at parliament. Unless it is approved, parliament will not go into its summer recess. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) group submitted the changes to the Constitution Commission after Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli gave his approval, amid rumors in Ankara that not all AK Parti MPs were enthusiastic about the curbing of their influence.

This is the third time in a row that Erdoğan has received strategic support from Bahçeli in matters of crucial importance.

The first example was Bahçeli’s support in declaring a state of emergency on July 20, 2016, right after the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

The second was his support in parliament for the constitutional changes. This support was vital for Erdoğan to take the changes to the referendum in April.

The third is this support for making these controversial changes to the internal law of parliament.

These three examples give an idea about a possible partnership going forward, such as in the next general elections. The next election is scheduled for 2019, though there is speculation in Ankara that it could be brought forward to be held next year.

Bahçeli has in the recent period lost a number of influential members of parliament, who are now preparing to establish a new party, possibly under Meral Akşener, a former deputy speaker of parliament. There are questions about whether such a party could exceed the 10 percent national threshold to enter parliament, which also raises the same question about the MHP.

On the other hand, the winner of the next general election, which is likely to be held together with the presidential election, would need 50 percent plus 1 vote. Any contribution from the MHP, even if the party falls below the 10 percent threshold, could thus make Erdoğan and the AK Parti more comfortable. 

In this situation, a contingency may be given for MHP candidates to be named on AK Parti lists in the election. These names could later split off to form their own group in parliament, thus managing to by-pass the 10 percent threshold.

Turkish politics seems to be open for such new scenarios in the near future.