Political ambitions appear set to trump rational choices again

Political ambitions appear set to trump rational choices again

By the time you read this, it should be a little clearer if Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is going to go for a coalition government that will reinstate a semblance of stability in the country – in other words, opt for the rational course – or decide on an irrational government formula with the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which will prepare the country for early elections which Davutoğlu hopes will return the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to its pre-eminent position. 

Davutoğlu is not the only deciding factor here, though, even if he opted for the rational choice. In fact it could be argued that the reins are not even in his hands. Should he go for the rational option, which under current circumstances means a coalition with the Republican Peoples Party (CHP) that is also supported from outside by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), this is no good for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In order to get out of the constitutional limbo that the June 7 elections has thrown him into, Erdoğan needs early elections that will, he hopes, reproduce the AKP’s parliamentary majority. Erdoğan, in other words, is fighting for his own future, more than the future of the country. If he was concerned about the latter, he would have used the executive powers that he is exercising today in violation of the constitution to increase stability rather than the opposite. He is clearly not prepared to go down that road, though, and prefers instead to gamble with Turkey’s future like some Ottoman sultan driven by blind ambition. 

Judging by what our editor-in-chief, Murat Yetkin, whose finger is always on the political pulse in Ankara, wrote on Monday, all the signs are that Davutoğlu is going for the irrational choice. This is probably why the MHP feels so smug and self-assured when it utters maximalist remarks that only aggravate the Kurdish problem at home, and make Turkey a potential source of regional instability.

If Yetkin’s prediction turns out to be true, this will mean that Turkey will be in the hands of a weak government until November, when early elections have to be held, at the very moment that it has rekindled the country’s age-old Kurdish problem, and when, judging by the latest remarks of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, it is preparing for all-out engagement against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

One need not be a political expert to know that war-like situations require strong government with solid mandates if the country is to extricate itself from these situations successfully. What we face instead is the prospect of an AKP, egged on by Erdoğan and its coalition partner, the MHP, amplifying its anti-Kurdish stance with a view to wooing nationalist votes. 

The only problem here for the Erdoğan-AKP-MHP triumvirate is that the AKP can only gain votes from the MHP’s constituencies, or vice versa. In other words, these two parties, in order to turn early elections to their advantage, will have to “steal” votes from each other. They are very unlikely to increase their support bases by votes they take away from the CHP or HDP. This is what really makes the course that Davutoğlu appears set to take even more irrational since it stands to weaken the AKP even more than it is today. 

But even if the AKP wins the elections, by taking votes from the MHP, there is still no guarantee that it will be able to form a strong government to steer the country out of its present crises. Put another way, blind political and ideological ambitions appear set, as always, to trump the rational decisions that have to be taken in Turkey in order to take the country forward.