An Erdoğan-Bahçeli coalition for early polls?
The June 7 general election obviously launched a new era in Turkey, with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) losing its majority at parliament and with the one-party government it has enjoyed since 2002 coming to an end. The results oblige the formation of a coalition government, something that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other AKP officials had previously described as a “nightmare.”
Although Erdoğan called on all political parties to act responsibly and not to leave the country without a government, it is known that this is not his principal priority. Erdoğan and his AKP were elected to the government in 2002 after three years of Turkey being ruled by a three-party coalition government that ruined both the political and the economic system. Today, this is the “coalition fear” that Erdoğan and his successor Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have diffused to society, perhaps amid plans to go to an early election later this year.
One week after the election, the point at which we have arrived indicates some important findings:
- The AKP will be in government. It is clearly understood that a coalition government, if established, will be formed by the AKP (as the “winner” of the election with 41 percent of the vote and 258 seats). Although its votes declined, the AKP is still a party represented in almost every province, with a clear potential to increase its votes in coming elections. Many projects have been launched by previous AKP governments and the AKP would not like to see other parties capitalizing on them for their future political purposes. What’s more, the AKP has to stay in the driving seat in order not to give opposition parties the chance to revive corruption cases.
- Both the CHP and MHP seem reluctant to partner the AKP in government, with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli apparently pressing for an AKP-CHP government through strong statements that do not facilitate AKP officials’ approach to him. Sociologically speaking, the fact that these two parties share similar grassroots and worldviews should make an AKP-MHP coalition government more likely. An AKP-CHP partnership is being called a “grand coalition” that could potentially resolve Turkey’s main problems, including the Kurdish peace process and boosting the EU harmonization process. However, both CHP and MHP officials have serious question marks about forming a coalition government.
- There are two main concerns about forming a coalition government with the AKP. The first one is Erdoğan’s position. Both the CHP and MHP have aggressively challenged Erdoğan’s interpretation of his presidency and violation of the constitution by actively involving himself in the election campaign and asking for votes for the AKP. CHP and MHP officials will surely be putting this as one of their conditions to the ruling party in coalition negotiations. The other main concern is about how the coalition government will deal with the corruption cases of the past government, particularly the four former ministers who were engulfed in serious corruption and graft allegations.
- Early elections still stand as a strong possibilities. The AKP is short of 18 lawmakers to form a government and it believes it could reach a majority at parliament with a strong push in early polls later this year. The AKP launched a comprehensive study immediately after results were announced about the possibility of re-gaining a majority at parliament. A fresh campaign to revive the “coalition fear” in the public would be easy, as we can already see its implications on the economy. During the period before early elections, that would be the main argument for the AKP in trying to woo votes back from the MHP.
- It seems that a coalition of Erdoğan and Bahçeli has already been formed to carry the country to early elections, although it’s not clear what the MHP would gain from this. The party was only able to increase its votes by less than two points, despite some very important developments on the Kurdish issue that could have ignited more nationalistic feelings among Turks. Meanwhile, Erdoğan’s post-election talks with former CHP head Deniz Baykal could also have a negative effect on the potential of an AKP-CHP coalition, as the move had a negative impact on the social democratic wing of the CHP.
However, it should not be forgotten that only a week has passed since the election. We still have 10 days before the mandate to form a government will be formally given to Davutoğlu. We have just started on this road, with no clear sight on where it leads.