The post-election picture in Turkey

Published 12.06.2015 21:58
Updated 13.06.2015 11:28

Even though the AK Party lost the parliamentary majority to form a government by itself, it won its 11th election in 13 years

The June 7 elections in Turkey gave rise to new political dynamics that will test the maturity of Turkish democracy. For the first time since 2002, coalition government scenarios have emerged even though snap elections are not off the table.

It does not seem to be possible to form a coalition government without the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) or without the three opposition parties coming together among themselves. All combinations face challenges.An AK Party - Republican People's Party (CHP) coalition is numerically possible but the CHP prefers a formula without the AK Party. But this seems nearly impossible because the CHP will need both the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to reach the minimum number of 276 votes to form a government. The MHP has already ruled out any coalition that will be formed with the participation or support of the HDP.

The second possibility is an AK Party-MHP coalition. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli may not be favorable to being a coalition partner under the shadow of his last coalition experience back in 1999-2001. He may see coalition partnership as eroding his electoral gains on June 7.

Even though the AK Party lost the parliamentary majority to form a government by itself, it won its 11th election in 13 years. It came out comfortably ahead of its closest rival, confirming the AK Party's countrywide appeal and grass-roots strength. In coming days, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will be given the mandate to form a coalition government.

This post-election picture has made President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the key figure. By the constitution, the president is responsible for steering the process of helping form a coalition government or calling early elections. He will run the legal course of government formation so that Turkey does not face political and economic uncertainties. He called on all political parties to act with a sense of responsibility. Now it is up to them to try out coalition possibilities.

The level of participation in the June 7 elections was over 86 percent; the new parliament has the highest level of voter representation. As the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election report noted, the elections were held in a free and fair environment. The claims that sought to cast a shadow over Turkish elections turned to be totally false. The claims of authoritarianism and election-rigging also turned to be baseless.

While post-election politicking continues, the new social and political dynamics present challenges and opportunities for Turkey. The new constitution and the future of the Kurdish issue have gained a new sense of urgency. The last attempt to write a new constitution had failed due to the disagreement of the opposition parties. It remains to be seen if the new government will be able to take it up.

The Kurdish issue has taken a new turn with the HDP, the PKK's political wing, entering the Parliament as a party for the first time. Unlike the impression given by the international media, however, the HDP group was already in the Parliament prior to the June 7 elections. This time, they entered the race as the HDP and won 80 seats. How this will affect the peace process remains to be seen.

Here the key issue is the disarmament of the PKK, listed by the EU and the U.S. as a terrorist organization. But under the current circumstances, it looks unlikely. Emboldened by the electoral success of the HDP, the PKK chain of command will seek to expand its dominance in the Kurdish areas. It will also use the war in Syria as a pretext to legitimize itself. Thus not only the Assad regime, Iran or Hezbollah but also the PKK is now using the Islamic State of Iraq al-Sham (ISIS) as a shield to justify its expansion into Syria.

The romanticizing of the HDP in the international media fails to see or prefers to keep silent on the connection between the HDP's liberal discourse and the militant subtext of the PKK violence. The HDP refuses to call on the PKK to disarm. Instead, it seeks to whitewash the tactics of intimidation and fear by the PKK. The aesthetization of terrorism has taken a new twist at the hands of liberal commentary and activist journalism.

The AK Party seems to have paid the price for the climate of peace and democratization it created. Thanks to the "opening process" that Erdoğan initiated in 2009 to resolve the Kurdish issue through peaceful means, the Kurds now enjoy much greater freedoms, peace and prosperity. But the rise of the MHP and the HDP at the ballot box suggests victory for two nationalist trends. HDP voters believe that the reconciliation process did not go far enough. MHP voters believe that the reconciliation process gave the HDP-PKK too much space and spoiled them. Most of these voters came from the AK Party.

If the PKK refuses to disarm and the HDP remains only a feeble mouthpiece to justify the PKK's maneuvers, the solution process is likely to face an uphill battle. It is important to note that the HDP has only one true interlocutor to continue the reconciliation process, and that is the AK Party. A coalition government that does not include the AK Party will also lead to a similar deadlock.

Given these political dynamics, the AK Party is likely to remain the key actor in any coalition scenario. It is in the interest of Turkey and the region to conclude this process sooner than later and move forward.

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