Repeat election becoming increasingly probable

Repeat election becoming increasingly probable

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) started to tilt towards following a bi-polar strategy in the coalition talks slated to start next week, if the parliament speakership council can be formed and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is asked by the president to form the next government. On one pole will be the probability of going to repeat polls as early as the first Sunday of November, while on the other pole there will be two options: Establishing a coalition government with either the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) or the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Opposition parties are critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not designating a prime minister so many days after the final results of the election were published in the Official Gazette. They claim the president’s secret agenda was in hopes of an AKP majority comeback to force Turkey to repeat elections, though technically the president can wait until after the formation of the parliamentary speakership council to designate a new premier. None of the previous presidents, however, waited for the speakership council’s formation.

Still, perhaps because of his frequent assertions that if a coalition government cannot be formed the owner of the will would be asked to re-express it in a repeat election and solve the political puzzle, it is speculated that he wanted repeat polls. Prime Minister Davutoğlu, on the other hand, might best consolidate his grip on the AKP by establishing a strong coalition government, as all opposition parties have been adamantly demanding Erdoğan be pushed to the constitutional limits of the presidency.

On the other hand, as the AKP is slated to go to a party convention this fall, it might be argued that unless he remains, Davutoğlu might not be able to survive. After all, in the first election under his chairmanship the AKP declined by ten percentage points and lost its parliamentary majority. The opposition parties - thanks to the MHP’s strong allergy to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) - cannot form the coalition formula strongly wanted by the CHP, but if the AKP cannot form a government, the CHP might opt to form a minority government and carry the country to early polls next spring with that government. Though it appears a distant possibility, everything is indeed possible in politics and such a government might be temporarily supported from the outside by the MHP - if the HDP does not publicly announce its support as well.

Thus, even if Erdoğan might demand to go to a repeat vote, Davutoğlu might feel compelled to form a coalition, if for nothing else than his own political prospects.

With which of the opposition parties a coalition is forged will determine also the nature of the government. If the AKP decides to go with the MHP, that will be an election government. Such a government will carry Turkey to early if not repeat elections. An AKP-MHP coalition might be difficult to sustain because of sharp differences on the Kurdish opening as well as graft claims. A coalition between the AKP and CHP, on the other hand, will be a “longer term” government that might deal with many of the country’s outstanding issues with a right-left compromise. Indeed, that is why groups from Turkish industrialists to foreign investors and Turkey’s international creditors very strongly back such a coalition formula.

Yet, will the AKP be able to force Erdoğan to constitutional limits or accept a “sacrifice” of former ministers, and perhaps at least one son of the president, and dispatch them to a graft probe once again to conform to a key demand of the CHP? What about the economic pledges of the CHP (two bonuses for the retired every year, pulling the minimum wage to 1500 Turkish Liras)? Can the AKP agree to stop funding the extravagant palace and instead use the saved money for the “populist” agenda of the CHP?

Evaluating all these options, Davutoğlu and his A-team were reportedly pondering the postponement of the fall party convention to spring 2016 and placing repeat polls as their first priority. The AKP has also reportedly started pondering a draft which would grant “immediate” pension rights to some 330 first-time deputies should the parliament decide on early elections or a repeat poll decision. A draft on the issue is reportedly prepared and waiting for any eventuality. Under current rules, a deputy must serve at least two years on the benches to get the pension right. Besides, Davutoğlu has reportedly assured AKP deputies that if Turkey goes to a repeat election there would be only minor changes in the candidate lists.

Even such a consideration alone by the AKP underlines the high probability of Turkey going to repeat polls rather than pushing hard for a difficult coalition for Erdoğan and the AKP.