The AK Party's voter base are in favor of a coalition with the MHP. But since this option now seems unlikely because of the MHP's reluctance, a coalition partnership can only be formed with the CHP and the AK Party's dilemma begins at this very point
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has paid successive visits to the offices of Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli. While the meeting at CHP headquarters had a more sincere atmosphere, apparently a stiff atmosphere was prevalent during the meeting at MHP headquarters. Statements issued after the meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu indicate that the possibility of a coalition is welcomed by both the CHP and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). However, according to Davutoğlu's statements after the meeting with Bahçeli, the MHP's leader indicated that their party has closed its doors to all coalition options with the AK Party. The AK Party's dilemma begins at this very point. The AK Party's administration and organizations and even a great majority of the party's base were favoring a coalition with the MHP. However, by closing its doors to a coalition, Bahçeli obliged the AK Party to align itself with the CHP, which is the least favored option for a coalition partnership by the AK Party's organizations and base.
To look on the bright side, the CHP has the least transitive points with the AK Party's base. So if early elections are held after a period of a possible coalition government, the possibility of a vote shift from the AK Party to the CHP is nearly zero. But this fact also comprises the negative side of the issue. The CHP has a considerable historical record since the foundation of the Turkish Republic for its various implementations, such as bans on wearing the headscarf, assimilation and violent policies targeting Kurds. The electorate has prejudices against the CHP mostly due to this historical accumulation of negative deeds. When taking into consideration that the CHP has a hostile policy toward AK Party founder and leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and cooperates with various forces, including the illegal Gülen Movement, for this sake, and it sides with the mass murdering regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria and the coup-leading President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Egypt, the image that the CHP draws is likely to drive AK Party voters away from the CHP.
AK Party voters largely consist of a conservative base, and now this base is required to digest the CHP as a coalition partner, which just two years ago appealed to the Council of State to prevent women with headscarves from working as civil servants. I guess it would not be speculative to predict that the ones that could not have such a high tolerance among AK Party voters would incline toward the MHP or the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) at higher rates than the latest elections in possible early election. However, the AK Party also has a duty to prove to the voters of other parties that it is engaged in a reconciliatory and rational endeavor to build a coalition and that it will not spoil the game. Otherwise, the party is required to challenge some moderate messages of the CHP, and this would create an impression among the electorate that the AK Party acts with pointless arrogance. This impression also has the potential to negatively influence voting behaviors. For this reason, it is essential for AK Party members, particularly Davutoğlu, to follow a path that is moderate but not submissive. For the abovementioned reasons, the surveys conducted among AK Party voters seem to reflect more emphasis on the option of going for early elections in the last instance.
About the author
Hilal Kaplan is a journalist and columnist. Kaplan is also board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey.