Turkey: Coalition government versus early elections

Published 09.06.2015 00:27

Since the AK Party has failed to secure majority in Parliament allowing the party to form a single-party government, various coalition scenarios are on the table now to determine Turkey's future politics

Elections reveal the preferences of voters and set the future course of politics. The next day, calculations and political elites kick in. On June 7, the people of Turkey picked the possibility of a multi-party coalition over a single-party government. Although the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) won the contest with 40.9 percent of the vote, it failed to secure a majority in Parliament. In light of the election results, it has become clear that the political system, which emerged out of the 1980 military coup, has reached an impasse.

Between 2002 and 2015, the AK Party's single-party government had made it possible for the country to compensate for the existing system's shortcomings. The 10 percent electoral threshold, once a source of stability, no longer meets the country's needs. What we see is certainly a new situation: In the 1990s, receiving 27 percent of the vote would have been enough to win parliamentary elections. Nowadays, it would appear that even 41 percent is too little. The elections unfolded as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had predicted and the executive branch ended up losing its stability - which is why the parliamentary system entered a turbulent period. People vote, elites form governments.

Coming from a tradition of prolonged and deep polarization, the elites currently find themselves faced with a dilemma: Coalition governments require a culture of reconciliation to function. Early elections, meanwhile, require fierce competition and direct confrontation. As such, political parties preventing the formation of a coalition government will inevitably lose popular support, participants in a prospective multi-party coalition will risk getting hurt down the road.

The main reason behind the AK Party's failure to secure a parliamentary majority, it goes without saying, was the strong display from the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Having received 13 percent of the vote, the party was simply the most successful contender in Sunday's elections. The HDP leadership skillfully secured the support of secularists, Kurdish conservatives and a range of AK Party opponents to claim 80 seats at the legislative assembly. The Kurdish nationalists' notable success, to be sure, entails great responsibility for the party organization. As such, it remains to be seen whether the party will seek to maximize its gains by demonstrating nationalist fervor or reach out to communities across Turkey.

While the HDP played a critical role in ousting the AK Party from power, the movement does not hold the key to coalition scenarios. It is none other than the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Categorical opposition to the AK Party may have been enough to place a single-party government out of reach, but there is a good chance that it won't be enough to form a new government. There are two coalition scenarios on the table: (1) A CHP-MHP coalition with outside support from the HDP, which the parties signaled during the election campaign. The possibility of such a scenario will cause international capital and domestic secularists to put pressure on the MHP. At the heart of the anti-AK Party coalition will be corruption allegations and the possibility of holding ministers accused of corruption of justice. However, it will be difficult for the MHP to invest in a coalition government that must bow to the HDP leadership's mood swings. The party has the necessary autonomy to resist outside pressures - which MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli proved during his address on Sunday evening. Meanwhile, the party distanced itself from a prospective coalition with the AK Party by publicly declaring that it was opposed to the Kurdish reconciliation process. (2) A coalition featuring the AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party. Mr. Bahçeli's statements indicated that the party lacks the appetite it enjoyed when it joined forces with the Motherland Party (ANAP) and the Democratic Left Party (DSP) in 1999. This option would prove costly to the AK Party and create obvious problems with ongoing efforts to resolve the Kurdish Question.

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