No surprise, no coalition in Turkey

No surprise, no coalition in Turkey

I was among those unsurprised when breaking news emerged the other day that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) had failed to agree on forming a coalition government. 

Such a government was, in fact, something I had wanted to see after the June 7 election. These were, after all, the two biggest political parties in Turkey, representing the two largest camps in society: The religious conservatives and the secularists. A coalition among between would offer Turkey the chance for a much-needed, historic reconciliation. It would also help the economy and ensure political stability, especially at a tense time of renewed conflict with the PKK. 

But the coalition dream failed precisely because it would amount to a historic reconciliation. For reconciliation is not what everybody wants. First of all, Turkish political culture is more prone to chest-beating and confrontation in general. Secondly, in this particular case, the enmity between the AKP and the CHP is very deep, with the bases of both parties seeing each other in quite Manichean ways. Finally, there is one particularly powerful actor on the scene who has intentionally deepened this political cleavage in society, and who apparently wants to keep it alive. 

This actor, as you can guess, is President Tayyip Erdoğan. He is, in fact, probably the number one reason why a coalition government between the AKP and CHP turned out to be impossible. He was unenthusiastic about this idea from the very beginning, and kept pointing to “renewed elections” as the way out. In this column, in a July 8 piece titled, “Why Erdoğan wants elections – again,” I explained why:

“President Erdoğan hates sharing power. He instead wants to concentrate it in his own hands as much possible. But the result of Turkey’s elections one month ago really does not fit this agenda. So he wants to toss the dice once again, hoping that this time his party, the AKP, will be able secure a parliamentary majority.”

This was indeed the game plan of “the Palace” (Erdoğan) from the very beginning. When the AKP and CHP seemed to get along, Erdoğan gave signals for “renewed elections.” Earlier this week, he even said that he did not expect Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu “to commit suicide” by allying with a party “whose views are different.”

What is going to happen now? Well, the constitutional processes are very intricate, but ultimately the AKP (and “the Palace”) will find a way to go to elections very soon, probably in November. Whether the third party, the MHP, can help them do this will be the next minor question.

The major question, of course, is what these “renewed elections” will bring. AKP folks seem to believe that the nation will see the “mistake” it made on July 7, by ending the stable single-party era of the past 13 years. They, in other words, calculate that the AKP votes will increase this time, and they will be able to win a parliamentary majority to go back to the good old days of untroubled AKP dominance. 

Is this wishful thinking? It is, I am sure - at least to some extent. But it is certainly possible that the AKP might see some increase in its votes, not due to any merit of its own, but due to the unimpressive performance of the opposition, especially the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). But my guess is that this will still only be a minor increase, and the AKP will again fail to win a parliamentary majority, and will thus be forced to work for a coalition again. That is, at least, my own wishful thinking.