What’s behind Erdoğan’s delaying tactics?

What’s behind Erdoğan’s delaying tactics?

Opposition parties are justifiably wondering why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not yet called Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (at least when this piece was being written) to ask him to try to form a coalition government. By tradition, Davutoğlu is the one who has to be given this job first, as the leader of the party that received the most votes in the general election, although it was not enough for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to form a government on its own.

Newly elected deputies have all been sworn in and the new speaker of parliament has been elected, so it is not clear what Erdoğan is waiting for, or “what he is playing at.” This is also encouraging negative speculation about his political plans. Erdoğan’s own remarks also contribute to this speculation.

Many believe that he is waiting for the public to see that a coalition government will not be long-lasting and will inevitably result in early elections. They say his simple formula is to let the public see the bickering before and during the coalition negotiations, and then to decide that the AKP is the wisest choice after all. 

According to this scenario, Erdoğan expects the AKP to regain its parliamentary majority in early elections. He must know, of course, that any AKP victory in early elections is still unlikely to be enough to secure him the constitutional changes he wants in order to become an executive president. But a parliamentary majority for the AKP will nevertheless allow him to get away with much, as he continues to violate the constitution. 

Given his hold over the party, Erdoğan can act more like the country’s leader under an AKP government, instead of the constitutional head of state who has to remain within certain boundaries and refrain from discrimination when it comes to dealing with parliament. 

A parliamentary majority for the AKP would, of course, also prevent the reopening of corruption allegations against former government ministers who were in office when he was prime minister, and also against himself over the corruption allegations against his son Bilal. 

If all of this is true, then Erdoğan has not drawn any lessons from the results of the June 7 elections. To start with, there is nothing that guarantees an AKP victory if early elections are held in November. Then there is the fact that the AKP lost in the June 7 election because the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) passed the 10 percent electoral threshold. 

While there were non-Kurds who voted for the HDP, the bulk of its support came from Kurdish voters who are focused on expanding rights for the Kurds, and who are angry at Erdoğan and the AKP in this respect. The AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have vowed not to form a government with the HDP. We can assume, therefore, that this party will remain out there on its own. That is what it wants anyway. 

This being the case, it is not clear how Erdoğan expects the political bickering between the AKP and MHP, or between the AKP and the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP), over who gets what in a coalition government, to effect Kurdish voters. The chances are that if early elections are held the HDP will most likely retain its current vote base. 

There is also the possibility that the bickering between the AKP and the CHP will drive angry CHP voters to the HDP and not the AKP. Some MHP supporters may, on the other hand opt to return to the AKP, but their numbers will not be determining. The bottom line is that the odds remain stacked against Erdoğan one way or another. 

He says he wants a coalition to be formed as soon as possible for the sake of stability in the country. If he was sincere, he would not delay any longer and he would call Davutoğlu in to ask him to start coalition talks. The way things appear now, Erdoğan seems more concerned about his own fate than that of the country.