An existentially important vote

An existentially important vote

On the 92nd anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, the sick and old man of Europe, millions of Turks will go to the voting booths. Sunday’s vote appears to be an existentially important vote for whether the republic will continue as a multi-party parliamentary democracy or turn into a dictatorship, very much like those of the Middle Eastern political geography. Under the election law it is prohibited to talk about the latest public opinion polls but it is no secret for anyone that most likely it will be a cliffhanger vote very much like the June 7 results.

In the June 7 vote many liberal and social democrat Turks casted strategically motivated votes for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) even though most of them had no sympathy at all for the pro-Kurdish party.

The aim was to make sure four parties enter parliament and thus deny the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) the simple majority it needed to form a one-party government. That strategic consideration worked; the AKP fell short of a simple majority in parliament but because of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) rushing to its help it managed to stay on in government by transforming the government into an “election administration.”

Most of that “strategic vote” probably will not go to the HDP this time but the pro-Kurdish party has defeated the psychological threshold impediment and might easily compensate the loss of strategic votes with votes it might attract from the conservative Kurds which would otherwise go to the AKP. Anyhow, in all public opinion polls there is a consensus of opinion that the HDP will easily beat the 10 percent national electoral threshold.

The AKP, on the other hand, might have attracted some votes from the stability-sensitive sections of Turkish society and from those segments of society alarmed with the increase in both the separatist terrorist threat and the urban terrorism incidents since the June 7 vote. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), on the other hand, boosted its perception in society by being the “all the time constructive” party over the past many months. Despite all the criticisms over the “no deal with the HDP” deposition of the MHP leadership, the nationalist party also appears to have served well to maintain its grassroots support. Now, unless the around 2.5 million votes from Turks living in Europe - which is anticipated to go mostly to the AKP and to a lesser degree to the HDP - makes a radical impact on the local vote, the Nov. 1 vote result will be more or less the same. Yet, a 1 percent increase in the AKP vote might be sufficient to carry it to a razor-thin simple majority in the legislature and thus to a very vulnerable government seat. Besides, there is already talk the AKP was in efforts to “buy” some of the candidates from the MHP and the HDP. Turkish politics has a rather bad history in that area. Remembering the “Güneş motel” incident of 1977, it would not be the first time a government might be established with a majority achieved through bought deputies. The Tuğrul Türkeş incident of the post-June 7 elections as well underlined the capacity for political permeability in Turkey anyhow.

The sustainability of a government based on a razor-thin parliamentary majority or a simple majority achieved through bought deputies, however, will be rather difficult and force the country to an early election in less than a year. On the other hand, if a result very much like the June poll emerges Sunday evening, it might not be a farfetched estimation to say Turkey will go to a repeat election again in March or April next year because under no condition will the tenant of the gargantuan palace allow a government that might reopen the corruption cases which might land not only some of his men but many members of the “imperial family” behind bars as well.

Since the president has no intention of allowing a coalition government and because of the MHP’s “No deal with the HDP” antagonism remains intact, neither a coalition of the CHP or the MHP with the AKP could be achieved, nor could a three-way opposition coalition come to power.

Can this vicious circle be undone with the introduction of a fifth party on the political scene? That’s what is rumored much in Ankara nowadays but the fifth party can become a reality if the AkP indeed fell below the 40 percent psychological barrier. At that point some old friends – such as former President Abdullah Gül, former deputy premiers Bülent Arınç, Ali Babacan and many other ex-top AKP people – might take the lead and with some fifty deputies that party will garner from not only the AKP but also from other parties emerge as the power broker.

In any case, Sunday’s vote will have existential importance on the future of Turkey.