Davutoğlu’s multi-dimensional quandary

Davutoğlu’s multi-dimensional quandary

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is facing quandaries on multiple fronts as he tries to figure out the best coalition formula that will serve the interests of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). His choices are limited though. He also has President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan breathing down his back, watching his every step. 

Erdoğan and Davutoğlu both want the AKP to regain the parliamentary majority it lost in the June elections.

But they want it for different reasons. Erdoğan is still chasing his leadership dreams and pushing for early elections to achieve this. It unlikely that the AKP will win the necessary majority in these elections to change the Constitution and facilitate this dream, of course.

But an AKP that is nevertheless able to form a government on its own is enough for Erdoğan at this stage.

With a parliamentary majority for the AKP he can, as the “spiritual leader” of the party, carry on the way he has been since being elected president a year ago and exercise executive powers, whether this is constitutionally legal or not. The way he rekindled the war with the PKK and the campaign against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) shows that he has no limits in pushing his ambitions. 

For Davutoğlu the situation is different. He clearly wants the AKP back in power on its own but not for the sake of becoming Erdoğan’s lackey. Erdoğan’s interventions prior to the June 7 elections lost the AKP votes. 

If he has drawn the necessary lesson from this and refrains from campaigning for the AKP, leaving this to Davutoğlu alone, then any victory by the party in early elections will be due to Davutoğlu’s merit. This will make him even less willing to become Erdoğan’s lackey. Either way it is a gamble for him. But he has the opportunity to avoid this by forming a workable coalition. 

In that case he has two options. The first is a partnership with the Republican People’s Party (CHP). For all the acrimony between these two parties in the past, they have the potential to produce a positive agenda for Turkey that will steer the country through the current political turmoil and overcome increasing economic uncertainties. There are those within the AKP who want this, and it is also known that former president Abdullah Gül, who still commands respect within the party, favors this.

The other option is a partnership with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). But it is clear from the way this party has been stirring the cauldron with regards to the yet unresolved Kurdish problem, by acrimoniously hitting below the belt with every ultranationalist argument, that such a coalition is unlikely to produce a positive agenda for Turkey. Instead it will most likely matters worse than they are today. 

Davutoğlu, however, is trying to convince the world that he has not given up on the Kurdish “solution process,” which ultimately involves some form of dialogue with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) even if it is outlawed as a terrorist organization. But the MHP has made it clear that its priority is to kill process irrevocably. If that happens it means that violence and bloodshed become the order of the day again with no end in sight.

This is why Davutoğlu probably does not want to enter into a partnership with the MHP but he knows that Erdoğan and hardline AKP members prefer this to a coalition with the liberal CHP, if indeed a coalition is what is opted for rather than early elections. How Davutoglu will extricate himself from this multidimensional quandary, and manage to remain on top politically as the AKP prepares for its congress in September is anyone’s guess.

Unless he can come up with the leadership qualities needed to pen Erdoğan within his constitutional limits, revive the search for domestic peace with the Kurds and ensure Turkey regains its international reputation, he will find he is locked in a “lose-lose” course. What is much worse, of course, is that this will mean Turkey is set on a “lose-lose” course, and facing a bleak future.