Who would want to be in Davutoğlu’s shoes?
While saying he had not “willingly” assumed the mandate to form a “temporary” government to go to the elections on Nov. 1, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu looked unusually strained in his press conference after meeting with President Tayyip Erdoğan on Aug. 28.
This is going to be the second election in six months after the vote in June, which saw Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) lose its parliamentary majority. Because the four-party parliament was unable to produce a coalition government, the president activated the constitution’s re-election clause for the first time ever.
Davutoğlu said he could not be accused of blocking the coalition efforts because he had left no stone unturned to find a way forward.
Both Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) accuse President Erdoğan of deterring Davutoğlu from forming a coalition – particularly an AK Parti-CHP one. Erdoğan had made a number of public statements similar to when he said that forming coalition through concessions from principles could amount to committing political suicide.
The CHP and the MHP have refused to take part in any temporary government, for which the prime minister must ask names from all parties according to their representation in the 550-seat parliament. That leaves the AK Parti alone with the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), as well as non-partisan names not included in parliament.
This is a worst-case scenario for Davutoğlu and the AK Parti.
After announcing that the peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had been put into the fridge following the acts of terror reciprocated by massive military strikes, Erdoğan denounced the HDP as the “political extension of the separatist terrorist organization.” It will not be very easy for Davutoğlu to defend a partnership with the HDP at a time when the funerals of soldiers and police officers are hitting front pages every other day.
That is why Davutoğlu repeated his call to the CHP and the MHP once again yesterday to talk within the framework of an election government, which he would not like to share with only the HDP. That’s why Bahçeli, in his prompt refusal, said with a bitter tongue that the “PKK will be in government in a few weeks,” implying the HDP.
A game-theorist may understand why Erdoğan wanted to force another election after his disappointment over the June 7 polls. The AK Parti lost its majority but still there was no possibility of a coalition without its leadership. Perhaps another election could bring back a majority to the AK Parti and give him the chance to exercise extensive executive powers, as if the current parliamentary system had already shifted to a presidential system. A formal constitutional change along these lines would be practically impossible under a coalition government.
Now, Turkey is set to repeat the elections on Nov. 1. If the polls prove right and there is no radical change in the composition of parliament, both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu will have to acknowledge the political reality and move on with a viable coalition. Indeed, Turkey - surrounded by wars and economic crises - also needs a sustainable government to move on.