Turkish politics and why once again Rousseau and Kant were right about parliamentary democracy

Both Rousseau and Kant were sceptical of the ability of an English-style parliamentary democracy to truly represent the will of the people, rather than than degrading into factional politics. Weber was also convinced that political parties in and of themselves are not democratic institutions.

An example of this can now be seen in the behaviour of the rise of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) since the June 7 elections. MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli’s strategised a deadlock on the Turkish political scene.

Immediately after the elections Bahçeli told his supporters that his party had no interest in joining a coalition government, although he urged the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to come up with a solution. He obviously thought that the MHP’s interests would be better served by avoiding an ill-fated coalition government.

Those coalition talks having failed, and given that the AK Party and the MHP are theoretical and in social policy terms closely matched, many blame Bahçeli for the failure. Bahçeli knew that withdrawing in this way, the AK Party would end up constitutionally having to give positions to the MHP ultra-antagonist HDP, and this would have allowed Bahçeli to accuse the AK Party of forming a coalition with the PKK’s political wing, thus drawing yet more disillusioned AK party  supporters to the MHP on the campaign trail, as new snap elections were announced.

This would have mired Turkey in years of political turmoil, creating ever greater divisions between Turks and Kurds, and, who knows if Bahçeli didn’t have the backing of foreign elements who didn’t like the AK Party’s policies (Israel, Gülen, etc…).

It took a true Turkish nationalist in the form of Tuğrul Türkeş, MHP deputy chairman and the son of MHP founder Alparslan Türkeş, to join the caretaker government, breaking ranks with Bahçeli. Ahmet Davutoğlu attempts to form a caretaker government would, as a result, not fail after all. Türkeş also made it clear that some other prominent figures in the MHP leadership were unhappy with Bahçeli’s strategy, sending a message to Turkish nationalists that the MHP may not be their political home after all.

So in the end, Bahçeli’s  gambit proved quite costly to his own party. In an effort to prevent lower-ranking MHP officials from starting a rebellion, Bahçeli petitioned the party’s ethics committee to expel Türkeş. Now, tension between the AK Party and the MHP will grow, and what Turkish nationalism actually means will be a hotly debated issue, as the MHP assumes an increasingly reactionary tone.

It is quite likely that, like the HDP, which is the mirror-image of the MHP on the other side of the political spectrum, the MHP will lose voters in the upcoming elections. While the HDP were (more-or-less) cooperative on the formation of coalition governments, they didn’t distance themselves from the PKK spree of violence. They blamed the AK Party for starting the new war with the PKK, although this hardly stands up if the AK Party were prepared to lose Turkish nationalist votes to back a Kurdish reconciliation process.

The Turks and Kurds will want to move away from the extremes.