Erdoğan must show the country comes first

Erdoğan must show the country comes first

The second round of coalition talks will be held this week. All the signs are that it will either be a partnership between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) or early elections. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have made it more than apparent that they do not want to take part in any government with the AKP. This is politics and it is known in Turkey that parties have recanted and gone ahead to do what they previously said they would never do. It appears however that the MHP and the HDP, rather than be overshadowed by the AKP, since they will be minor coalition partners, have decided there is more to gain by remaining outside the government than in it.

The CHP will also be in the position of the minor partner if it enters a coalition with the AKP. But it has enough seats in parliament to give it a certain amount of political clout in any coalition government with the AKP. There is, of course, no certainty that the AKP and the CHP will finally agree, even if this is what the business community and influential names like former president Abdullah Gül want. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has reportedly told AKP executives to prepare for early elections so the party will be ready if coalition talks fail. This could be a ploy to put pressure on the CHP, or it could be a genuine precaution.

The crucial factor for the AKP is that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signaled he would prefer early elections to a coalition government. His calculation appears to be a simple one and based on the assumption the AKP will gain its preeminent positon if early elections are held because the electorate will see that the alternative is to leave the country without a workable government. But there is no guarantee that he will get what he wants even if the public were to go to the polls again.

The most he is likely to get, and even that appears doubtful, is an AKP government on its own. It does not appear likely at this stage, though, that the AKP will get enough votes to change the constitution and realize Erdoğan’s dream of becoming Turkey’s sole leader. Many believe what Erdoğan wants is a desperate shot in the dark in the hope this turns the game to his advantage again. Of course Erdoğan would argue the opposite and his only concern is for a government to be formed as soon as possible for the sake of the country and this is why he prefers early elections, rather than a coalition which will not last. 

But an AKP-CHP coalition could survive and provide service to the country as these parties balance each other out. That however would be the worst outcome for Erdoğan in terms of his ambition. It would also run the risk of corruption allegations against him and his son being revived. If he was the responsible president he claims he is, he would be pushing today for the only formula likely to work so Turkey is not left without a government. He would see that the AKP-CHP formula, which gets outside support from the HDP, is the only viable solution for Turkey. Put another way, Erdoğan has to show the country’s interests, and not his own political ambitions, come first. We have yet to see him doing so. 

Correction: In my last piece (Iran deal highlights Turkey’s ‘precious loneliness’) I cited the celebrated British journalist and Middle East expert Patrick Seale in a manner which suggests that he is still alive today. Regrettably Mr. Seale passed away in April 2014. I thank my friends who reminded me of this and apologize for the serious oversight on my part.