A quick question: Had the average Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supporter known ahead of the parliamentary elections that the party would form a coalition government with the Republican People's Party (CHP), what would they have done? The same question goes for the average CHP voter, who has not gone to great lengths to conceal their dislike for the AK Party. It is no secret that the average supporter of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) would feel the same way.
My point is not to cause friction among Turkey's leading political parties. Nor would I want to place coalition talks at risk. At this time, all political parties are operating in line with the rules of the game set on June 7 when the nation decided to move forward with a coalition government. Our political leaders have to make their peace with the situation at hand and proceed to form a government. No argument here.
Turkey's parliamentary system, after all, compels political parties to be hypocritical. One day, politicians do everything in their power to discredit their competitors. The next, they have to leave everything behind and negotiate terms. Efforts to form a coalition government often lead political parties to act against the wishes of their supporters, which hurts their credibility and reputation in the eyes of the electorate. This brand of politics compels politicians to follow the late president, Süleyman Demirel's maxim: "Yesterday was yesterday. Today is today." The inability to stick to one's principles inevitably leads to a lack of trust in the political process, which translates into a poorly institutionalized democracy.
No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, it should be clear that the country's electoral system makes no sense. Do voters not have a right to know in advance which coalition government they endorse by voting for a given political party? Would it not be fairer to provide voters with this key piece of information?
As a matter of fact, the electorate found itself in a similar situation during last year's presidential race. Two political parties with opposing views, the CHP and MHP, jointly nominated Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu for president, a former academic who currently serves in Parliament as a member of the MHP caucus. When the average voter entered the polling station, they knew in advance which parties had joined together. In other words, the 2014 presidential election was a perfectly transparent competition that produced no unpleasant surprises. Each voter knew what they endorsed. Had İhsanoğlu won the race, no CHP voter would have been able to complain about a Turkish nationalist being elected to the highest public office in Turkey with leftist support. The same goes for MHP voters.
Unfortunately, parliamentary elections do not provide voters with the same level of transparency. No matter what the electorate wants, the allocation of parliamentary seats dictates the terms of government. At this time, Turkey needs to reform the electoral system in order to make sure that the voters have a voice in parliamentary politics.
Ahead of the June 7 elections, the AK Party had proposed that the parliamentary government be replaced with a presidential system. In the end, the election results indicated that either the party had failed to communicate its message to the electorate or the electorate was not interested in the presidential option. Still, the national conversation on system change should continue. The Italian solution to coalition governments, the "Italicum," could serve as a viable alternative to Turkey's existing electoral system. It stipulates that the ruling party must receive at least 40 percent of the vote in order to ensure the formation of a single-party government. If adopted, the new electoral system would force political parties to hold coalition talks ahead of the elections instead of negotiating terms of agreement beyond the electorate's reach. It would also maximize the amount of information available to voters on election day.
Would this model not be a more transparent and predictable electoral system?