Two illusions about Turkish coalition talks

Two illusions about Turkish coalition talks

The official phase of the coalition talks to form a new Turkish government after the June 7 election is expected to start next week.

As President Tayyip Erdoğan has said that he would give Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu the mandate to find a partner for the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) after parliament elects its speaker, the two processes are de facto linked, despite remarks from Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on June 24.

After announcing that he had asked Deniz Baykal, his predecessor, to be the CHP candidate for the Speaker of Parliament position, Kılıçdaroğlu denied that the two processes were related. 

This did not please everybody in the CHP for a few reasons. The first was Baykal’s meeting with Erdoğan, despite the CHP’s refusal to take Erdoğan as a political counterpart due to president’s constitutionally non-partisan status. Many party members think this was a fait accompli by Baykal to put himself forward, despite the fact he has repeatedly said he spoke to Kılıçdaroğlu on the phone in advance. Secondly, some CHP members think Baykal weakens the hand of the CHP in possible coalition talks with the AK Parti, as his potential parliament speaker position would be seen as a gain for the party.

If Baykal wins, this would indeed represent a gain for the CHP. Not only because the speaker acts as a substitute to the president in the latter’s absence, but also because usually it is the party with the largest group in parliament (in this case the AK Parti) that elects the speaker, as in the fourth and final round only a simple majority is needed to win.

There is speculation that the AK Parti could give the position to the CHP as a bargaining chip used to counter Kılıçdaroğlu’s possible coalition demand to rotate the Prime Ministry. However, there is no concrete sign that the AK Parti will make such a move with the number one position in parliament.

It is true that Baykal’s name has increased the chances of an AK Parti-CHP coalition, or a Turkish “Grand Coalition.” But it would not be correct to assume that Baykal’s speakership would be a must for such a partnership. If the AK Parti and the CHP agree on other matters for a coalition, it is not likely that Kılıçdaroğlu would withdraw just because Baykal is not elected.

That is the first illusion about possible coalition talks between the AK Parti and the CHP.

The second illusion would be to assume that Davutoğlu would refrain from a coalition with Kılıçdaroğlu, (despite agreeing on all other matters), just because the CHP could vote in parliament to reopen corruption files, especially on four former AK Parti ministers. Those ministers were left out of the cabinet by (then prime minister) Erdoğan after the emergence of the Dec. 17, 2013 graft probe, which was later quashed by the AK Parti-dominated parliament (a dominance that no longer exists).

It can be observed that both Davutoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu will do their best to refrain from another election this year, though President Erdoğan has said he would call for such a vote if the parties cannot find a way to establish a government.