New Turkish elections loom ahead

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli doesn’t know what to do. In the face of a collapse in coalition talks between the AKP and CHP, he opposes snap elections and is reluctant to form a coalition with the AKP. In the one case his support base will be wittled away, and in the other he will be engulfed by the AKP.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that snap elections were ‘the only option’ for Turkey, given that the MHP had made it clear that it wanted to stay out of a coalition government. The fact that Bahçeli is nevertheless willing to enter into coalition talks with what he calls “the previous preconditions,” essentially means that he wants to share power – not to be engulfed.

When Bahçeli said that he was disappointed by the failed coalition talks between AK Party and the CHP he was expressing a hope for a political landscape that would maintain his party’s integrity.

Davutoğlu and Bahçeli are supposedly scheduled to meet on August 17 to discuss coalition government options, although they appear doomed given Davutoğlu’s criticism of the MHP leader’s conditions for starting coalition negotiations, saying that no one is in a position to “give anyone a lecture.”

Davutoğlu’s AK Party had been seeking a coalition partner after no party won a simple majority in the June 7 general elections, but he failed to reach an agreement with CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu after several days of talks. He said ” Snap elections have become the only option for Turkey. It is obvious that the AK Party and CHP have deep conflicting opinions… mainly in foreign policy and education.”

Davutoğlu also said that the perception that Erdoğan did not want a coalition was “completely false.”

Actually, the dramatic change in the political landscape recently, with the rise of terrorism and the open conflict with the PKK, is in Erdoğan’s and the AK party’s favour. The tensions are likely to make anti-Kurdish defectors to the  MHP return to the AK party as a result of its harsher stance, and pro-Kurdish defectors to the HDP return to the AK party because of their disappointment in the behaviour of the HDP leadership over recent PKK attacks.

Turkey went to the polls on June 7 to choose its lawmakers for the country’s 25th Parliament, shaping the future of Turkish politics. The two significant outcomes of the elections were that the AK Party, which was vying for a fourth term of single-party power, had a clear victory but failed to secure the 276 seats required to form a government single-handedly, and the HDP attempt to pass the 10 percent national election threshold to make its way into Parliament, crushing the hurdle and receiving 80 seats in the chamber.

Although the AK Party got the most votes, receiving 40 percent, roughly 15 percent more than the CHP, which received the second highest number of votes, some interpreted the elections as an AK Party failure as its rate dropped 8 percent from the 49 percent it received in the 2011 general elections. Since the bare minimum to retain a simple majority in Parliament was not achieved, the AK Party started looking for a coalition partner to form a government, which appeared to be a tough undertaking, taking into consideration the rigid differences between the policies of the parties in Parliament.

The MHP won 80 seats in Parliament, and combined with the AK Party’s 258 seats, the two parties could easily forge a coalition and parliamentary majority.

When the deadline to form a government expires on Aug. 23, either Erdoğan or Parliament can decide to hold early elections. If the president issues the decision, then polling is supposed to be held the first Sunday following a 90-day period starting from the end of the first deadline.

In the current set of circumstances, this scenario suggests early elections in November.

However, if Parliament makes the decision for a new election, then the Supreme Election Board (YSK) can cut the 90-day period by half.