US election scenarios for Turkey

US election scenarios for Turkey

For the first time since the November 2002 national elections, there is uncertainty in Turkey about which party will rule Turkey from tomorrow on.

Hence, just one day before the critical elections, scenarios have pervaded all over; will a coalition government be formed? Will the majority-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) pass the 10 percent electoral threshold? 

This year, Turkey’s elections are quite popular in the U.S. too. Many institutions in Washington have conducted simulations on Turkey’s June 7 elections.

Wikistrat, one of the world’s pioneer consultancy platforms, is one of them. It recently completed a simulation on Turkey’s elections, featuring 54 experts from all around the world, and produced a staggering 105 scenarios. These were then ranged by the experts and distilled into the three likeliest scenarios.

Under the leadership of Akın Ünver, professor of International Relations at Kadir Has University, the project also oversaw the trajectory of Turkish foreign policy.

Let’s see which scenario brings about what kind of a foreign policy.

According to the first scenario, which was defined as the most likely one, the HDP fails to pass the threshold and the AKP (Justice and Development Party) wins the election with 40–44 percent of the vote. On the other hand, the CHP (center-left Republican People’s Party) gets 25-28 percent and the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) 16-18 percent. Consequently, this establishes a single-party government. Yet the AKP must buy votes from other parties to change the constitution.

This, in turn, creates two possibilities in the foreign policy realm. First, to compensate for the loss of domestic dominance, the government seeks to gamble bigger in external affairs and muster national support by steering the country into regional conflicts.

The second possibility is that the lack of domestic success leads to a period of isolationism where Turkey returns to its pro-NATO, pro-EU stance and minimizes its involvement in the Middle East.

The second scenario is of medium probability. Accordingly, the HDP wins just enough votes to enter parliament. The AKP drops below the 276-seat threshold for a majority, getting 40-42.9 percent of the votes. The CHP gets 26-29 percent, whereas the MHP is between 17-19 percent. And this requires the formation of a coalition. 

The report assessed a coalition between the AKP and the CHP as out of possibility and between the AKP and the MHP of very low probability. Accordingly, the only possible coalitions are between the AKP and the HDP or between the CHP and the MHP.

In this scenario, in foreign policy Turkey is most likely to turn to isolationism since it lacks a strong parliamentary legitimacy to back foreign policy initiatives. Hence, Ankara reduces its foreign policy to bare minimums and follows the long-term trajectory set by its security institutions e.g. the military and intelligence. 

Besides, a pro-NATO and pro-EU stance would be emphasized.

The third scenario is described as the least likely outcome. Accordingly, the AKP wins enough support to change the constitution, either directly or through a referendum. So it gets 44-49 percent of the votes, whereas the CHP gets 24-26 and the MHP 14-16. The HDP remains below the threshold.

This foresees greater involvement in the region on the foreign policy front, as Turkey seeks to reinvent itself as an active player. It assumes a more direct approach in Syria, escalating its support of groups against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) is another institute which has conducted a similar simulation bearing the signature of Michael Werz, CAP’s expert on Turkey.

The report argues that one of the most determinant results of this election will be foreign policy. 

Accordingly, a fourth successive outright majority by the AKP would bring the continuation of Turkey’s more independent and active foreign policy.

As its second scenario, the HDP makes the threshold and the AKP is forced into a coalition, which will most likely be formed between the AKP and the ultranationalist MHP.  

Then, the report claims, Ankara would take a stronger nationalist line at home and adopt a more restrained foreign policy. In particular, Turkey’s assertive policy on Syria might prove difficult to sustain. Anti-Western rhetoric would continue. Yet it also added that this outcome might bring a renewed push for EU membership as well.

On the other hand, CAP sees the formation of a coalition by the opposition parties as unlikely.

Apparently these elections will open up a new page not only on domestic politics, but also on foreign policy.

We are almost there. So no more bets please.