When will the election be?

When will the election be?

The outcome of the meeting was obvious when the two leaders first sat down for talks on whether and how to forge a coalition government. While the two leaders were yet to discuss whether to establish a six-month election government – wanted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – or a four year “restoration and service government” - which the Republican People’s Party (CHP) hoped to establish – bets were opened at the coffee houses on whether Turkey will go to an early election on Nov. 22 at the latest.

Would the establishment of a government even change the prospects of a snap poll? Could an AKP-CHP “grand coalition” survive for more than a few months? If President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is somehow silenced and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his prospective partner Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu are allowed to co-administer the country, there may be a possibility of this. But on Wednesday, Erdoğan appeared to blow up the last remaining chance of a healthy coalition by strongly implying that it would be suicidal for the AKP to align with the CHP in a coalition. If neither the AKP nor Davutoğlu step further than the circle drawn for them by Erdoğan, and are forced to play a game that Erdoğan wants them to play within that circle, is it at all important whether the country goes to polls after a “government crisis” brought about by the collapse of an AKP-CHP coalition or after an AKP minority government?

It is very clear. Erdoğan, Davutoğlu, the AKP and its grassroots – as can be seen in many public polls – do not want repeat polls. Why? Because in a repeat election, under stipulations of the constitution, a government in which all parties represented in parliament are represented in accordance with their presence in the legislature must take the country to such polls. A four-party coalition would be dreadful for the AKP, which would not be able to dominate public funds and opportunities in its election campaigning.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) closed its doors to a coalition with the AKP and declared that it would not support an AKP minority government from the outside either. Was it sincere? Perhaps the MHP was the only party that has so far managed to walk a straight – and for most people irrational – line since the June 7 elections. The party has been against any formula that included the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), or that does not involve the AKP making Erdoğan abandon the “illegal palace” and “withdraw to within the limits of the constitution.” But if the MHP sees the probability of an AKP minority government supported by the HDP (impossible under current political conjecture but just an assumption), then it may - out of its hardline opposition to the HDP - decide to make a “sacrifice” and lend its “external” support.

If the AKP remains committed to an AKP-CHP six-month reform and early election government formula, and if the CHP - acting with a degree of political opportunism - wants to go to polls as a coalition partner and with a set of reforms that it also wants to undertake, then the country might have a way out. But such a road will not take Turkey anywhere other than to an early election in the spring of next year. But even if such a “fixed-program reform and election government” has a strong parliamentary base capable of even changing the constitution without a referendum, the “tissue incompatibility” of the two parties and the “Erdoğan factor” may complicate all prospects.

An AKP-CHP coalition, however, could take Turkey out of the current messy situation and usher in a new era of peace and tranquility. It would tacitly mean the founding party of the republic would be actively engaged in a parliamentary process – unlike the failed arbitrary and ambiguous Kurdish opening – to resolve the Kurdish issue, the biggest problem that the republic has ever faced. 

Even if for a six-month period an AKP-CHP reform government can be established to pass some radical reforms – such as introducing checks and balances on the political role and powers, as well as the financing of the presidency – Turkey might have an opportunity to make a fresh and hopeful democratic start.

It must be obvious for everyone that neither the current polarization in all sectors of society, including the media, justice, police and bureaucracy, nor the extravaganza of all sorts by Erdoğan, can be sustainable.

So the question that needs to be answered is not what the outcome of the Davutoğlu-Kılıçdaroğlu meeting is. Rather, it is whether fresh polls will be held in November or in March, and on what platform.