The coalition games

Published 23.06.2015 22:10
Updated 24.06.2015 09:30

After 13 years under a single-party government, Turkish voters opted for a coalition government by denying the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) another four-year term in the recent general elections. Much has been said about the reasons why a smaller part of the electorate seemed to favor the incumbents on June7. Now the time has come to form a coalition government and move forward. Pending the crucial decision of picking their partners, Turkey's opposition parties, which agreed on the need to remove the AK Party from power ahead of the elections, have had certain disagreements, which makes the formation of a tripartite coalition increasingly unlikely. In other words, the impromptu alliance built around the urge to hurt the incumbents has slowly disintegrated as the nation desperately looks for a political party to shake hands with the AK Party leadership.

There are, arguably, two driving forces behind the current developments. First and foremost, the prospect of exercising political power triggers a certain competition within. The other reason is that the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have nothing in common except their commitment to stop the AK Party in its tracks. Political scientist Franz Neumann borrowed from Thomas Hobbes to call partnerships between parties with contradictory goals, which lack a positive agenda and are formed around mutual interest alone, "Behemoths." Under the circumstances, it would be perfectly appropriate to refer to the anti-AK Party front as a type of Behemoth.

The electorate, however, was less than impressed with this amorphous enterprise. As such, the AK Party has remained a vital component of Turkey's next government while failing to secure a parliamentary majority. Provided that the incumbents won as many votes as the next two parties combined, there is no denying that the AK Party will remain in the driver's seat over the next couple of years, which is exactly why the anti-AK Party front has collapsed. Moving forward, the three other parties will showcase their skills in political maneuvering. The AK Party, in turn, requires assistance, the source of which will become clear within the next weeks. Turkish media outlets have reported that the idea of partnering with the CHP has been becoming increasingly popular for the AK Party leadership. It is no secret, however, that the AK Party base would rather have their party work with the MHP. At this point, it looks extremely unlikely that the AK Party will partner up with the HDP.

Although big business is pushing for a grand coalition featuring the AK Party and the CHP, which might facilitate the drafting of a new constitution, CHP voters are nothing like the AK Party base. The overwhelming majority of the CHP base leads secular lives and identify as center-left voters. Traditionally, tensions between this group of secular-minded leftists and conservative AK Party supporters have been quite significant. A partnership between the two parties, in this regard, could possibly remedy the widespread polarization and have an overall positive influence on various social groups. It is perhaps more important to acknowledge that a coalition of polar opposites might generate the necessary momentum to implement legal and constitutional reforms. Considering that the CHP leadership has revised its position on the Kurdish question, there is a good chance that the prospective coalition government could devise a peaceful solution. A coalition government with the MHP, in turn, would hardly create similar opportunities for Turkey. The AK Party would avoid political turmoil by partnering with the MHP, but the venture might indeed fail to play a constructive role while at the same time, placing the Kurdish reconciliation process at risk.

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