Turkey’s new governance model imposes two-party system
Among the most significant recent domestic political developments in Turkey is the formal declaration of the “People’s Alliance” by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The two parties have stressed that this alliance will not be limited to the 2019 parliamentary and presidential elections. An AKP spokesman said it will continue after the 2019 elections, up to and beyond the 2024 elections.
At a recent meeting with a group of journalists, a senior AKP official explained this new political formation as an “obligation” of the new governance model that Turkey adopted in last year’s referendum. “The political system has inevitably changed with this new model. To come to power there is now a need to acquire at least 50 percent-plus-one-vote. This new model will force political parties to form alliances,” the official said.
This new model will eventually change the democratic and political culture in Turkey, the official suggested. “Ultimately, two main political lines will be set up. The necessary consolidation of power will thus be provided thanks to the new model,” he said.
These remarks reflect the long-standing political objective of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling AKP. The party’s intention is to gradually swallow up all like-minded minor parties, just like it did with the People’s Voice Party (HSP) of Numan Kurtulmuş and the Democrat Party (DP) of Süleyman Soylu. Both Kurtulmuş and Soylu joined the AKP in 2012 and dissolved their political parties.
Talks are now underway with the ultra-nationalist Great Union Party (BBP). It seems likely that a number of BBP officials will run in the parliamentary elections as AKP candidates, as the MHP does not want any other political party to institutionally join the “People’s Alliance.”
The Felicity Party (SP), meanwhile, has a special status. It is the continuation of the Welfare Party (RP), which was founded by the late Necmettin Erbakan, an iconic name in the development of political Islam in Turkey. The AKP official said initial talks got nowhere as the SP was determined not to join the alliance from the start, even though “its political perspective belongs in the People’s Alliance.”
“We should distinguish between electoral arithmetic and politics. We look at the SP’s possible joining of the alliance from a political perspective. Both the BBP and the SP represent a strong political meaning and have a reflection in society. Their positions on many national issues are well-known,” the AKP official said.
“If these parties position themselves in different political formations it would create a breach in our efforts for political unity. It would also lead to questions over the legitimacy of the political language of our alliance. In short, their absence would bring about a problem of integrity from our perspective,” he added.
According to the official, the formation of the “People’s Alliance” will force the opposition parties to take steps in the same direction.
“The opposition is well aware of how this new situation has put them in a tight spot. They will have to leave their comfort zone and break new ground,” he said.
The official was referring to social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the nationalist Good (İYİ) Party and the conservative Felicity Party. Given current conditions, it’s out of the question for these disparate parties to come together against the “People’s Alliance.” Any formation that includes the HDP will simply be accused of aligning with a terrorism-supporting party, facing a very big legitimacy test in the eyes of the public.
What’s more, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently declared that forming an “alliance of principles” would be much more likely. This alliance would be looser and would simply highlight democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Despite the AKP’s pressure, the opposition parties will likely refrain from established formal alliance but will combine their forces in the second round of presidential elections - if they manage to stop President Erdoğan’s victory in the first round.
Turkey imposes the world’s highest 10 percent threshold in parliamentary elections and now a threshold of at least 50 percent in presidential elections. This two stage-barrier constitutes the most effective tool in the AKP’s ambitions to shape the political landscape toward a two-party system.