With the ruling AKP’s failure to form a coalition government, the November 1 election will play a critical part in deciding Turkey’s future.
These are dark days for Turkey. With the lira falling, repression and violence against media outlets on the rise, and an increasing shift to authoritarianism, the elections in November are critical for deciding the future political discourse in Turkey.
A lack of coherence in foreign policy has isolated Turkey. It also has to deal with the growing threat of ISIS, a resurgent Assad regime supported by Russia and the possibility of a civil war due to the resumption of conflict with the PKK.
Before the results of the June 2015 election, the AKP (lead by PM Ahmet Davutoğlu) was confident of a parliamentary majority in the upcoming election. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has held power since 2003 with a clear parliamentary majority and mandate, with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as Prime Minister and now President.
The AKP believed after June that they would have the mandate to pursue and enshrine Erdoğan’s vision of a ‘New Turkey.’ This would entail changing the constitution to give Turkey an active presidential style system in which the executive would have more power than previously.
The results, however, did not deliver the 400 seats and a clear majority that the AKP needed. Instead, a hung parliament occurred with the AKP gaining 258 seats and the opposition Republican People’s Party with 132. The surprise winner was the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), winning 80 seats and passing Turkey’s controversial 10% threshold.
PM Davutoğlu was unable to form a coalition government within the allocated 45-day period and, as a result, a snap election was called for November 1. With the election only a month away here are four possible outcomes for the Turkish election:
1) Victory for the AKP with a resounding majority
The AKP needs 367 seats to form a government with a majority. To obtain its 400-seat majority, it would mean that the AKP would have to win 60% of the popular vote.
If this were to happen on November 1st, it would allow the AKP to go ahead with its controversial ‘New Turkey’ mandate and make the necessary changes to the constitution to empower the President.
With the three-year ceasefire in tatters, Erdoğan has stated that if the Turkish public had given a party (the AKP in this case) a 400-seat majority, the resurgence of the conflict would have not happened. According to the polls, this outcome looks unlikely, and many have accused Erdoğan of igniting the conflict again with the PKK as a political move to consolidate power and isolate the HDP.
As the body count increases, this has the potential to backfire and may cause the AKP to bleed votes.
2) A hung parliament with a broad coalition
This is the most likely situation. If the election goes as the polls predict, the election results will look very similar to those that occurred in June.
A hung parliament will mean that no one party will be able to gain control. Therefore, some negotiations will have to take place. Although there has been a swing in support for the HDP and the CHP, it is likely that the AKP will have to form a coalition with one or two parties.
This presents a few problems. It is highly unlikely that the AKP will join with the HDP due to the HDP’s perceived association with the PKK. There is a possibility, however, of them forming a coalition with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The MHP have stipulated five conditions that they would need to form a government with the AKP, specifically the resignation of Erdoğan. This is something that the AKP will not readily agree too. Also, Turkey has not had a hung parliament since 1999, and the AKP is not very fond of sharing power after having had a majority in the Parliament for twelve years.
Erdoğan has stipulated his dislike for coalitions and has been seen to stymie the recent coalition talks. Also, one of the reasons why coalition talks failed between the CHP and AKP in June was because the CHP may have reopened the 2013 corruption proceedings against AKP ministers. This is the major thorn in the side for the AKP if it needs to form a coalition with the CHP.
The 2013 corruption scandal is something that will not go away and could implicate many AKP members including and most importantly Erdoğan.
3) Another election is called
If a coalition cannot be formed, Erdogan in his position as president can call elections again. Although this would be seen as a perilous move, it has the potential to alienate a lot of the AKP’s traditional base due to fatigue with the instability of the government.
As the economy flounders and inflation rises, the AKP’s traditional conservative base is feeling the pressure compared to the prosperity they had experienced several years ago.
This outcome is highly unlikely and risky. Erdoğan, however, is a savvy political operator, and perhaps his ambition of being a powerful president may bring around the destruction of the party that he built and led for so long.
4) The election is canceled, or a ‘state of emergency’ is called
This last outcome is very plausible. If the election is canceled due to the problems that are occurring in the east of Turkey, there is the possibility that the government will cease to function. The current interim government has had little effect in running the country, and many bureaucratic functions have ceased to work.
What is even more of a danger is if Erdoğan calls for a ‘state of emergency’ due to the increasing problems in the country’s east in its conflict with the PKK. The President has the power in times of emergency “to proclaim martial law or state of emergency, and to issue decrees having the force of law, by the decisions of the Council of Ministers under his/her chairpersonship”. In effect, this means that Erdoğan has the potential of imposing authoritarian rule on Turkey if he sees fits.
The question is whether Erdoğan’s ambition for a stronger executive is such that he risks tearing Turkey apart at the seams. If this happens, it could spell the end of Turkey’s secular liberal democracy and the rise of another Middle Eastern strongman in a time of chaos in the region.