Saturday February 24, 2024

Turkey at a crossroads

On June 7, 2015 Turkey migrated to an uncertain political epoque, as the electorate unshackled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AK) party’s reins of power. Such a thirst for regime change echoes a broader reform zeitgeist amidst these tumultuous post-Arab Spring times.The quintessential question now is

By our correspondents
June 17, 2015
On June 7, 2015 Turkey migrated to an uncertain political epoque, as the electorate unshackled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AK) party’s reins of power. Such a thirst for regime change echoes a broader reform zeitgeist amidst these tumultuous post-Arab Spring times.
The quintessential question now is where Turkey mutates to next. Erdogan wanted to introduce a pumped-up Pakistani constitutional equivalent of the 8th Amendment, institutionalising omniscient presidential powers akin to the US or French executive presidency. Erdogan might now request a recently resigned Davutoglu to form government. Erdo?an may scuttle under a ceremonial presidency, espousing a non-meddling back-seat, permitting Davuto?lu, who visited and cemented ties with Pakistan in February 2015, to knit together a coalition with the opposition.
Mr Abdullah Gul could also be vying for the prime ministerial title, via a by-election. However unlike Davutoglu, Gul is less likely to play second-fiddle to Erdogan. Gul is also likely to smoothen internal rifts rampant within the AK.
These elections are not a fait accompli. It is naive to write off President Erdogan prematurely. The centre right-wing in Turkey sways 60 percent of votes whereas the centre-left holds 40 percent, on June 7. De facto, the AKP won a fourth election scooping 40.8 percent of the vote, teetering Turkey into the throes of constitutional ambiguity. Second in place were the secular-nationalist Republican People’s Party (CHP) at 24.96 percent with 132 seats, third the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) at 16.29 percent with 80 seats and fourth the leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP) at 13.12 percent.
For the first time in Turkey’s history, 18 million Kurds, Armenians and Yazidis received parliamentary representation via the HDP, an emissary for the excluded, buoyed by a charismatic Selahattin Demirta?, evolving the Kurdish movement from the blood-stained

battlefields of the southeast to the corridors of influence in Ankara.
The AK, with support from the opposition, may form a minority government with 258 seats, 18 seats shy for single party rule. CHP, MHP and HDP leaders are lukewarm though, partly because a marriage of coalition convenience dents their image as tactical weakness in the event of re-elections. A junior coalition partner must also justify their sudden U-turn to a discerning electorate.
As for an AK-CHP coalition, though the CHP’s Murat Karayalçin declined, their leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, beset by internal leadership crisis, may be sanguine. Rumours about an AK-CHP tie-up deepen as Deniz Baykal, Kiliçdaroglu’s predecessor, met Erdogan on June 10.
The AK’s most viable coalition partner is the rightwing MHP. AK-MHP would total 58 percent of the vote, a tactical right-wing shift reflecting a broader global right-wing resurgence as with the BJP’s Modi, Germany’s Pegida and France’s Front National.
The AK might court the HDP for a coalition. Erdogan’s tacit backing of Isis in a battle for the Kurdish city of Kobani alienated pro-AK Kurds toward the HDP. The AK’s chance of grazing single-party rule is to re-entice these Kurds. This can be secured by extending an olive branch to the HDP. Though Demirta? won’t cede, Ocalan, caving into Kissingerian real politik, clasping influence over the HDP, may acquiesce. Ocalan is instrumental in defeating part of the Syrian Isis reclaiming `Rojava` or Syrian Kurdistan. This would compel the AK to posit a harder anti-Isis stance. Turkey can ill-afford to play gateway for militants travelling from Europe to Syria.
If the AK cannot find a coalition partner it may devolve the task of government formation to the CHP, which could form a minority government or tie the knot with the MHP, with the latter’s Devlet Bahçeli yearning to resurrect the AK’s corruption charges. But still CHP-MHP’s cumulative seats lack a majority. CHP-MHP would need the HDP’s acquiescence, though the MHP’s nationalist rhetoric renders this unlikely. The MHP’s Bahçeli seeks a cessation of peace talks with the HDP’s Ocalan, alienating the Kurds.
No coalition government in Turkey ever successfully completed a full political term. Any junior coalition partner would extract their proverbial pound of flesh. Coalitions necessitate checks and balances, not yet fully ingrained in Turkey’s political DNA. Lack of a coalition implies early elections over the next 40 days, wherein the political pendulum could swing to reassert the AK’s mandate to power.
These elections imply a closer scrutiny of Turkey’s foreign policy on the global geo-strategic chessboard, possibly triggering deeper engagement between Turkey, the US and the west, partially unravelled over the past 13 years. Though a rapprochement toward a resource-rich Middle East and China is irreversible. Especially as Europe is debt-saddled where the Euro hits the doldrums. Angela Merkel’s ‘privileged partnership’ offer to Turkey is unenticing for Turks as it falls way short of full-blown membership.
What unfolds in Turkey next is of monumental consequence for the Middle East. Turkey is a harbinger for moderate Muslim democracy. A defiant Assad in neighbouring Syria, a nuclear assertive Iran and region-wide tumult with a Yemen war underscore the salience of Turkey’s stability. As a pivotal Nato ally, at a geo-political epicentre, Turkey can ill-afford cumbersome political uncertainty now. Turkey and the wider region’s future hinges on prompt government formation and decisive action.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
Twitter: @ozerkhalid