The opposition bubble

Published 12.07.2015 22:29
Updated 13.07.2015 09:12

Five weeks have passed since the parliamentary elections, yet it remains to be seen whether the negotiations will lead to early elections or a coalition government. In the meantime, the people discovered that the opposition parties are unable to exclude the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) from the next government. Following the formation of the parliamentary leadership, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan formally asked Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to start coalition talks.

The history of Turkey's coalition governments is quite rich. In the past, the country has had prime ministers refusing to travel abroad in order to prevent their coalition partners from running the country even for a few days. One of the most interesting episodes took place in 1977, when the late Bülent Ecevit secretly met with deputies from across the aisle at the Güneş Motel to form a minority government. Nothing the people have seen in decades, however, has been as shocking as the current situation: Opposition leaders, unwilling to help run the country, dare each other to participate in the coalition government.

Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for instance, asked Mr. Davutoğlu to take turns as prime minister if a grand coalition were formed. Meanwhile, he pushed for a tripartite coalition by offering Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli the same seat. The MHP leadership, in turn, treated this offer as an insult, calling Kılıçdaroğlu a "seat salesman." Since the election, both sides have been urging the other to shake hands with the AK Party.

Over the past few weeks, Mr. Bahçeli has made it clear that he has no interest in running the country by tabling ridiculous pre-conditions including the immediate termination of the Kurdish reconciliation process, a full investigation into corruption allegations and the relocation of President Erdoğan's office to Çankaya Palace, the former seat of the presidency - to which he refers as "the Çankaya bubble." Mr. Bahçeli's choice of words and his obsession with isolating the president alone makes sure that the AK Party distances itself from the MHP. Clearly, he deliberately makes such statements in an effort to avoid taking responsibility. The MHP leader, furthermore, has effectively ignored the inherent qualities of a coalition government: In a recent interview, Mr. Bahçeli remarked that "things will not work out if Party A controls certain ministries and Party B runs others." To make matters worse, he claims that a grand coalition between the AK Party and the CHP is best suited to alleviate polarization. Under normal circumstances, one would think that CHP supporters, not a Turkish nationalist politician, would make this case, but this is no ordinary situation.

Meanwhile, CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been raising questions about the AK Party leadership's sincerity and publicly endorsing a coalition between the incumbents and the MHP to avoid running the country alongside Mr. Davutoğlu.

As such, both the CHP and the MHP leadership openly state that they would rather stay in opposition than serve in the nation's political leadership. Unsure whether they will be able to keep their troops in line, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu and Mr. Bahçeli both stick to the grey area between taking responsibility and pushing for early elections, which allows them to tap into anti-AK Party and anti-Erdoğan sentiments in the next election cycle. Unwilling to be targeted by other opposition parties for cooperating with the AK Party, they fail to understand that the electorate will hold them responsible for jeopardizing the country's political stability.

The question remains: How will opposition leaders ask people to vote for their respective parties? Provided that the MHP refuses to work with the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), will they be able to talk the electorate into pushing for a tripartite coalition? Doesn't their current strategy effectively provide the AK Party with crucial ammunition? Most significantly, doesn't the opposition's irresponsible behavior prove Mr. Davutoğlu, who emphasized the importance of stability on the campaign trail, right?

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