Erdoğan is the main hurdle in front of a grand coalition

Erdoğan is the main hurdle in front of a grand coalition

The second day of coalition talks yielded a surprise, as Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli openly told Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu they will not take part in a coalition government. Although the 80-seat MHP’s reluctance to partner with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was well known, it was not expected that Bahçeli would close the door at this very preliminary talk. Bahçeli was expected to issue a written statement late afternoon to announce this decision and its reasoning. 

As Bahçeli had earlier nixed opposition-led government formulas, there are currently two possible government scenarios. The 258-seat AKP will either opt for a government with the 132-seat Republican People’s Party (CHP) or the 80-seat pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). In fact, given the unwillingness of the HDP, there stands the option of an AKP-CHP government, or grand coalition, as the only alternative. 

A day after Davutoğlu’s warm meeting with the CHP’s Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Bahçeli’s decision to bow out of the play will surely put more pressure on the CHP. The AKP and CHP will continue talks through designated delegations next week to see whether they can overcome differences of opinion on various issues and outline a government protocol. 

The mood at the CHP is not very high for a swift deal with the AKP on the basis of a lack of mutual confidence. Although Kılıçdaroğlu is of the opinion that he can find a way to run a coalition government with Davutoğlu, he seems to worry about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s interventions into governmental affairs. It was right that Kılıçdaroğlu did not raise the status of Erdoğan in his first meeting with Davutoğlu but that does not mean that the issue won’t be part of coalition negotiations.   

Likewise, AKP officials often express their non-confidence with nearly half of the CHP’s parliamentary group, which could spark an unexpected crisis within the coalition government. An agreement between Davutoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu would be possible but implementing this without in-house opposition from the CHP is almost impossible, according to AKP officials. 

That should be the reason why Davutoğlu has given weight to the need to build mutual trust between the two parties and to remove psychological barriers. However, the efforts of Davutoğlu and Kılıçdaroğlu might not be sufficient for the removal of these barriers, as Erdoğan has no intention to stay in his corner throughout this process. 

Otherwise, he would not make such a statement only hours after Davutoğlu’s warm meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu: “A coalition formed by conflicting parties will only bring Turkey harm, rather than good.”  

It’s unfortunate to see that the country’s president stands as the main barrier in front of a coalition government formed by the country’s two largest political parties. We’ll see whether Davutoğlu will dare to raise a red flag against the president and try to form his government, or if we’ll go to polls again this November.