Two scenarios for Turkish re-elections

Two scenarios for Turkish re-elections

With less than 40 days left until the Turkish reelections on Nov. 1, the parties have not yet begun their election campaigns.

How could they? Partly upon pressure from the tourism sector – which has lost money because of the Syrian civil war, an influx of immigrants and now resumed acts of terrorism - the government has announced a holiday of nine days, combining two weekends with the four-day Islamic Eid festival in between. One MP close to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu complained to me on the phone yesterday that he could not find the civil servants he needed in the PM’s office because many of them had taken their leave already.

Plus the parties have no campaign budget left, perhaps other than the election-coalition leader Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), since they spent all their money in the June 7 elections. Nobody thought President Tayyip Erdoğan would announce a reelection for the first time in the country’s history after coalition talks between the AK Parti and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) failed.

Despite Erdoğan’s hard push for an election campaign based on shifting from the current parliamentary system to a presidential system with more powers for the president and with less checks and balances, he justifies this target with the need for stability by using the increasing terror acts of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a pretext for it.

Erdoğan believes if the AK Parti could regain its parliamentary majority on Nov. 1, even if it cannot reach the capability to change the constitution, an AK Parti government without any partners could give him the powers he desires. So every passing day towards the election is important for Erdoğan in order to reach his target.

Yet, instead of, for example, using the Eid holiday as an opportunity to explain his party’s goal of regaining a majority to more people, PM Davutoğlu is getting prepared for a five-day trip to New York in order to attend the United Nations General Assembly meetings. His trip was justified by his advisors as an attempt to better explain Turkey’s righteous position on Syrian refuges to world leaders.

Davutoğlu knows well that a pressing campaign, no matter how effective, would not change the existing scenarios for post-Nov. 1.

The first scenario is the AK Parti regaining a parliamentary majority. That mainly depends on the regression of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Then Davutoğlu would form the government and become the PM under the shadow of the president; Erdoğan clearly wants all the ropes in his hands.

The second scenario is an outcome similar to the June 7 elections; that is a four-party parliament, with the AK Parti having the largest group but not enough to form a single-party government. In this case, the more likely thing to happen is a coalition government between the AK Parti and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP, since they accumulated much information about each other during the one-month-long talks after June 7. Of course the president could again speak up against a coalition, put pressure on Davutoğlu to not form one and drag the country to another reelection, but that is possible only on paper considering the political atmosphere now. In that case, Davutoğlu would be a prime minister with no shadow of a president cast on him, because of the presence of a coalition partner who would not permit Erdoğan to go beyond his presidential constitutional powers. 

What would you do if you were in Davutoğlu’s shoes?