Coalition or minority gov’t: What’s next in Turkish politics?

Coalition or minority gov’t: What’s next in Turkish politics?

The long-anticipated parliamentary elections have resulted in a not-so-surprising way as the fatigued Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority in parliament. Although still the first party with around 41 percent of the vote, 10 less than the 2011 polls, the AKP will have around 260 seats, 16 short of forming a single-party government. Thus it marks the end of a long era in which the AKP enjoyed ruling the country on its own between 2002 and 2015. 

However, the election results lead to so many questions as to how the political picture will evolve afterwards. Given the fact that the election results have dealt a heavy blow to the AKP and to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it’s no doubt that an in-house questioning process on the reasons for the defeat will be launched at the ruling party. 

It will be hard to make sound estimations on how this questioning will result at the AKP, as there had not yet been any reaction from Erdoğan late June 7 as this column was being written.  

Another area of uncertainty is the composition of the next government. In line with Turkish laws and custom, President Erdoğan has to invite AKP chair Ahmet Davutoğlu to the presidential palace to give him the mandate to form the government. The next government has to be formed within 45 days after the mandate is given and in the event of a failure, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) will announce early elections in two months. 

Therefore, a very critical period of 45 days will await us in which the ruling party has to conduct tough negotiations with a potential partner. Among the three oppositional parties, the AKP’s likely partner seems to be the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Both the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have already declared that they won’t enter any partnership with the AKP in the government. 

In this regard, Davutoğlu could launch a negotiation process with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, but a coalition protocol will not be easy given the latter’s strong opposition to Erdoğan’s interventions in governmental affairs. For example, it would be a huge concession on Bahçeli’s part if he agrees to go to the grandiose presidential palace to attend a cabinet meeting under Erdoğan’s leadership. 

One option is that the MHP could support a minority government to be formed by the AKP on strict conditions and with the prospect of taking the country to early polls.   

One very important risk the AKP and Erdoğan could face is the possibility that a large coalition between the CHP, MHP and HDP could be formed on certain conditions and with the purpose of undermining Erdoğan’s position. This large coalition would later take the country to polls with, for example, a reduced election threshold and other legal amendments for the further normalization of the country. 

That’s why early polls under the AKP government would be seen as a better option for Davutoğlu and Erdoğan. 

Having mentioned all of these aspects, one still needs to see the next steps for Erdoğan, who has already proven that he won’t be a usual head of the nation. In full disappointment at the results of the election, in whose campaign he was personally involved in election rallies at the expense of violating the constitution, Erdoğan’s road map is still unknown. 

At the end of the day, it will be Erdoğan who will decide whether to begin an era of political chaos and instability or to aid the normalization of Turkish politics by abandoning his political ambitions and leaving those democratically elected political leaders free in their will to form the next government.