Snap elections loom amid concerns over escalated violence

Snap elections loom amid concerns over escalated violence

The title of this column on June 13, just a week after the June 7 parliamentary elections, read “An Erdoğan-Bahçeli coalition for early polls?,” questioning similarities on initial reactions of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli. 

“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,” suggested the column at that time. 

Now nearly two months after polls and with less than 20 days until the expiration of the mandate to form a government, chances to make a coalition government have nearly diminished. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) accomplished preliminary talks with no encouragement for what is called a grand coalition. 

The alignment between the AKP and MHP is much more visible nowadays, especially after the government launched a comprehensive military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and ended the three-year long Kurdish peace process. Thus, this move provided the removal of one of the most important conditions Bahçeli imposed before making a government with the AKP. In return, Bahçeli allowed senior MHP representatives to visit the controversial Presidential Palace in a bid to show that he pulled back his second condition on the palace by himself. 

Mutual gestures have already been endorsed through confidence building measures that have been observed in critical votes at the parliament. This shows there is still a chance for Turkey to have a functioning government formed by the AKP and MHP if they can agree on the third condition of Bahçeli, which stipulates full and efficient prosecution of massive corruption and graft claims about senior AKP officials, including Erdoğan’s family members. 

However, the MHP announced Aug. 4 that it can support an AKP minority government if it agrees on snap elections in November after all efforts for the formation of a government are exhausted. 

There is a very timely and meaningful question, though: Why don’t the AKP and MHP form a government, although they agree on almost all critical issues and share a similar worldview? The only reasonable answer may be that the AKP and MHP agreed on a plan to make the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) stay below the 10 percent threshold in the next elections. This can help Erdoğan to find at least 330 seats in the parliament so the AKP can initiate a constitutional amendment for the adoption of a presidential system. Even though it can succeed, having 330 seats it will enjoy a comfortable single-party government. 

The biggest concern is that Turkey will go to polls amid growing tension in the country because of a triggered conflict between the PKK and the Turkish army. A terrorist campaign launched on July 20 in the Suruç province of Şanlıurfa that killed 31 young people at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and later accompanied by the PKK, claiming the lives of more than two dozen security officers make the political situation very fragile and open to further provocations. 

We still have no sufficient information about the deadly blast that occurred on June 5 during the HDP rally in Diyarbakır and bombings of HDP bureaus in Mersin and Adana, days before the June polls. The concern is that such attacks could be revisited during the upcoming pre-election campaign as tension has already escalated in entire country. 

That’s why a meeting between the CHP and HDP leaders yesterday was important, as they have renewed their calls for the end of violence in Turkey with a specific call to the PKK to lay down weapons. However, there are also things that should be done by the government and all political parties. If the only option is to renew polls, then they should be careful in not further endangering the stability and comfort in the country through their polarizing statements. 

The PKK should of course cease its attacks on the security officers while the government should end its defamation campaign against Selahattin Demirtaş and other senior HDP officials. Trying to push the HDP below the 10 percent threshold will only further spark tension in the country and the majority the AKP will have at parliament will not bring about calm and peace in Turkey.