Turkish PM returns mandate, Erdoğan faces gov’t puzzle for snap polls

Turkish PM returns mandate, Erdoğan faces gov’t puzzle for snap polls

Turkish PM returns mandate, Erdoğan faces gov’t puzzle for snap polls

In this Saturday, May 30, 2015 file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to the crowds in Istanbul, Turkey, during a rally to commemorate the anniversary of the city's conquest by the Ottoman Turks. AP Photo

Having been tested as a political chess player on many occasions throughout his decades-long career, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing another conundrum, as he is supposed to call for the formation of an interim power-sharing government with just days until the expiration of the Aug. 23 deadline to form a new government.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu returned the mandate to form a government to Erdoğan during a 85-minute-long meeting late Aug. 18. Erdoğan thanked Davutoğlu for his efforts, which took 40 days, to form a coalition government.

Hours before their meeting, Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chair Beşir Atalay announced that the party had decided to hold its regular congress on Sept. 12.

With speculation growing over whether Erdoğan would give a new mandate to form a government to the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which received the second highest number of votes in the June 7 election, in line with Turkey’s political customs, a contentious debate has also erupted on the probable requirement of forming of an interim government.

Under the terms of the constitution, Erdoğan could dissolve Davutoğlu’s caretaker cabinet and call for the formation of an interim “election government” if no deal is reached by Aug. 23. That would mean power being shared between all four parties before a fresh election in the autumn, with Davutoğlu and his AKP the dominant partner only a few months after the June 7 election. 

Shortly after the Aug. 17 breakdown in talks between Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli and Davutoğlu, the MHP made it clear that it would refuse to hold any posts in a possible interim cabinet. 

Parties list conditions

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has conditioned its participation in an interim government on the presence of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the MHP in such a government.

“If the HDP does not offer members to that election government, we will ... not offer members either,” CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Engin Altay told Reuters on Aug. 18. “We will not simply buttress a government in which the AKP holds a majority.”

The HDP’s review of the state of play was made during a party meeting presided over by HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ on the same day. 

“We would not avoid taking part in an election government. We declare that we will take responsibility for the holding of elections,” HDP Spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen told reporters at a press conference on Aug. 18. 

“There is a concrete situation in front of us. Turkey is currently experiencing a de facto coup. Emergency rule is being declared in cities. I believe that there is a need to do whatever it takes to get out of this situation and provide everybody’s life security,” Bilgen added. 

Upping the pressure

Having been in power since 2002, winning three consecutive parliamentary elections, the AKP lost its parliamentary majority in the June election, despite winning the highest number of votes. The CHP got the second highest number of votes. The MHP got the third highest number of votes and it holds an equal number of seats in parliament as the HDP.

In line with Turkey’s lively political agenda, before officials from the AKP spoke to reporters on Aug. 18 about Davutoğlu’s intent to return the mandate, and shortly after talks failed between the AKP and the MHP leaders, political actors were busy upping the pressure on both Davutoğlu and Erdoğan. 

“The president should make a new commissioning,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told daily Hürriyet after the Davutoğlu-Bahçeli meeting, adding that he believed the 45-day deadline was not explicitly stated in the constitution and was thus not “extremely binding.”

“Beyond that, 24 hours is a very long time in politics. Many things can be done and many things can change,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

HDP co-chair Demirtaş told reporters on Aug. 18 that it had become clear that things will “not fall into place without holding a new election.”

“Mr. Davutoğlu needs to return the mandate as soon as possible. It was he himself who said that no possibility for a coalition was left now,” he said. “The president should give the mandate to the CHP.”

Prospects and calendar

A new calendar will start running on Aug. 24 if Erdoğan eventually commissions Davutoğlu to form an interim government. Currently, in line with procedures initiated before the June 7 election, the Justice Ministry, Interior Ministry, and Transport Ministry are being headed by “impartial” bureaucrats. 

Apart from the Prime Ministry post and the three impartial posts, the AKP would be expected to hold 10 ministries in an interim government according to the parliamentary arithmetic. The CHP would hold six ministries while the MHP and the HDP would hold three ministries each. 

With the MHP’s decision to abstain, its ministries could be held by three non-partisan figures that may be chosen from among academics and former lawmakers - not necessarily from the state bureaucracy.

Within five days after a decision is made and published in the Official Gazette for an extraordinary election on Aug. 24, the prime minister will have to present his cabinet list to the president for approval on Aug. 28 at the latest. The election would then be expected to be held on a Sunday from Oct. 25 to Nov. 22.