Why Erdoğan wants elections – again

Why Erdoğan wants elections – again

In Turkey, there is a special category of reporters called the “Ankara journalists.” They know all the Byzantine power struggles taking place in the capital, and make sense of the political cacophony that sometimes seems puzzling to outsiders. These days, many of them agree that there is a gap between the two men who rule Turkey: While Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is willing to form a stable coalition government with one of the opposition parties, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to have “early elections” as soon as possible, probably this November. 

If you wonder why, here is a very simple answer: 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 Justice and Development Party (AKP), will be able secure a parliamentary majority.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Davutoğlu, and the people in the AKP who support him, believe that the nation spoke on June 7, gave a lesson to the AKP, and forced it to seek consensus with opposition parties. They also believe that a coalition government, especially between the AKP and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), will help “normalize” Turkey in several ways: It will diffuse political tension and help the economy. Moreover, it will force Erdoğan to become a “normal” president — limited and non-partisan, as declared in the constitution. The AKP government will then be able to tell Erdoğan, at least implicitly, “Our coalition partner asks you to behave; so please behave.”

That is the reason why Erdoğan seems unenthusiastic about a coalition government. It would be end of the “revolution,” and the state of emergency, that he has been spearheading since mid-2013. (The argument is that Turkey is accomplishing a historic transformation, that it has to crush all enemies who stand in the way, and that it needs a superhero to fight these glorious battles.) This could even initiate a new era in which corruption scandals of the past two years, which somehow touch Erdoğan himself, may be reopened and legally pursued.

But how would new elections help the president? Well, by making the AKP win more votes, for sure. The idea is that the very uncertainty and instability created by the June 7 elections will make some voters, who had decided to “punish” the AKP, change their minds again and vote for the incumbent party. According to calculations, the AKP will need only an additional 2-3 percent of the votes to secure a parliament majority, and that this might be possible in the fall. 

Of course, it is possible that such renewed elections will not change anything, and the AKP will still fall short of securing a parliamentary majority. But for Erdoğan, it might be a risk worth taking. What’s more, both he and his dedicated followers have an idea of the “direction of history,” which will be realized whatever bumps in the road there are. 

More objectively speaking, it is hard to guess whether such renewed elections really will take place or whether they will boost the AKP as much as Erdoğan wants to see. If there is one thing that may help him, it is not the Hegelian (if not fatalistic) “direction of history,” but rather a more mundane thing that has helped him all along the way: The incompetence of the opposition parties, including their inability to reach any consensus among themselves.