The Kingmaker and the snap Turkish election

 

Devlet Bahçeli is the “kingmaker” of Turkish politics. It was Bahçeli who called for early elections back in 2002, paving the way for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to come to office.

In the aftermath of June 2015 parliamentary election, in which the AKP failed to garner a sufficient majority to form a government, it was Bahçeli who rejected calls from other opposition parties to set up a coalition government, calling for early polls instead. In the November 2015 election the AKP increased its votes, and secured a parliamentary majority.

Subsequently, Bahçeli’s political profile grew substantially after the July 2016 coup attempt. On Oct. 11, 2016 he openly announced his party’s support for the AKP’s ambitions to change the administrative system from a parliamentary to an executive-presidency model. An AKP-MHP alliance narrowly won the constitutional referendum of April 16, 2017.

In early 2018, Bahçeli once again took the stage by declaring that the MHP will not present a candidate for the presidential race and instead will back President Erdoğan’s nomination, forming a new alliance, in light, on his view of the critical security situation Turkey faces at the centre of a collision between America and Russia in Syria.

Now that he has called for new snap elections, bringing forward the next presidential election from November 2019, after Erdoğan’s apparent refusal to contemplate such a move, Bahçeli secures Erdoğan’s agreement. However, the swiftness of the response and the very early date for the new election (June 2018) suggests Erdoğan was in on the idea from the start.

Both Erdoğan and Bahçeli are impatient to begin legislating for the new structures of governance under the presidential system, to consolidate Turkey’s transformation into a state capable of resisting the pressure and interference of foreign powers dogging its political system since 1947. Basically, the reason for the snap election is to wrong-foot Western powers and avoid election interference, which is what Binali Yildirim means when he says that there are ‘geopolitical reasons’ for advancing the election date.

Controversy dogs these elections due to the emergency laws in place at the moment as a result of the Turkish government’s crackdown on the Gülen movement. For the EU in Brussels, this is a civil society movement with a right to free expression, whilst for the Turkish government it is a cult (FETÖ) guilty of high treason in virtue of an attempted violent coup against the state and democratic institutions. For the EU, the state of emergency amounts to the Turkish government acting outside the rule of law. For the Turkish government, an attempted coup d’état is a supreme example of disrespect for the rule of law and warrants sanctions against all suspected members of the Gülen organisation.

The position of the EU is principally sustained by the German government, which has granted asylum to leaders of the Gülen movement, and has instructed the Greek state not to extradite other Gülen elements to Turkey, which escaped to Greece after the coup.

The overall position of the German government against the current Turkish government’s policies, however, pre-dates the attempted coup, and goes back to 2005 when the Merkel CDU/CSU landslide election victory over the SPD would lead to new policies towards Turkey and the rejection of its attempts to improve its trading position and renegotiate the essentially neo-colonial framework of the European Customs Union, by entering the EU as a full member.

The important role the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMFUS) and the Axel Springer Group played in Merkel’s rise should have been warning to the Turks that their non-cooperation in the Iraq War was going to be considered by the US establishment as unforgiveable treachery.

Furthermore, this would have to be understood in the context of the campaign launched by the US through GMFUS beginning in 2004, to combat the anti-Americanism that had taken a strong hold on European public opinion, after France’s and Germany’s (under the SDP) own opposition to the Iraq War.