Will Erdoğan’s intervention ruin AKP-CHP coalition chances?

Will Erdoğan’s intervention ruin AKP-CHP coalition chances?

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan intervened in the talks between the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in pursuit of a coalition government on Aug. 12, publicly questioning the nature of such a prospective coalition.

Referring to “some who say” the CHP and the AK Parti should form a coalition, Erdoğan said it would be “suicidal” to enter a coalition if the views of “one side” do not match with the principles of the other side, (implying the AK Parti, without directly naming it.)

That was a strong indirect message to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, urging him not to form a coalition with the CHP and instead to take the country to another election after the one held on June 7, when the AK Parti lost its parliamentary majority. It is significant that Erdoğan made this strong remark after holding a one-on-one meeting with Davutoğlu in the Presidential Palace on the evening of Aug. 11, after making equally strong public remarks on the government-forming process and a possible election re-run. 

Before meeting Davutoğlu, Erdoğan had said he would not extend the 45-day constitutional deadline, after which the president has the right to take the country to another election. He also said he thought Davutoğlu may need to talk to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli once again before making his final decision - not only with CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. 

Erdoğan also slammed the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for “failing to understand” the meaning of the Kurdish peace process by not distancing itself from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying the process was now “frozen.” Such a freeze was a prior condition of the MHP to start talking with the AK Parti for coalition possibilities, so it was as if Erdoğan was pushing the AK Parti toward the MHP for any kind of partnership - not necessarily a coalition government, perhaps simply with the MHP supporting a minority government before an early election.

The president’s remarks yesterday, Aug. 12, a day before the key meeting between Davutoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu, could be regarded as an intervention in the talks in order to block the possibility of a coalition government and thus take Turkey to another election.

But if the two leaders say today that a coalition will not be possible, will Erdoğan be the sole person responsible for that failure? No he won’t. 

Firstly, the majority of the grassroots of both parties are against a coalition, seeing each other as opposite poles of the magnet. The grassroots have not encouraged their leaders for a government partnership, on the contrary they have bombarded them with messages against such a possibility.

Secondly, despite all the politeness during the talks, the two party leaders have not done enough to explain the need for such a coalition to their voters. This may be because Erdoğan has been holding the possibility of a fresh election like a Sword of Damocles over their heads.

So no, Erdoğan will not be the only person responsible if Davutoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu fail to carry on talks for a coalition partnership. But clearly it is Erdoğan who has not favored the possibility from day one.