Formation of political alliances will remain hot topic in 2018

ALI ÜNAL @ali_unal

The formation of pre-election political alliances has become a hot topic of Turkish domestic politics since the country switched to a presidential system with last year's historic April 16 referendum.

While discussions about possible alliances continue, political scientists indicate that, under the framework of the new system, alliances are inevitable and we are likely to see the formation of two different political alliances in 2018.

Turkey's next president, who will be elected on Nov. 3, 2019, requires a vote of 50 percent plus one. Therefore debates on political alliances have been one of the most controversial issues after the April 16 referendum.

Nevertheless ways and methods of formation of alliances are still uncertain. According to Dr. Mustafa Altunoğlu from Anadolu University, the underlying reason for the alliance arguments is the fact that Turkey has been long grappling with instabilities.

"Turkey has been struggling with instabilities for a long period of time. ‘Stability' was one of the Justice and Development Party's [AK Party] main rhetoric in both elections in 2011 and 2016," Altunoğlu said.

Discussions about political alliances started with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's remarks on Nov. 15.

"With 50 percent plus one [vote for the presidency], political stability comes. When we take this into consideration a pre-election alliance could be considered," President Erdoğan had said. "This is something that our relevant institutions should work on. It can be assessed and steps can be taken later."

Stepping into the discussion, the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said on Dec. 1 that any alliance in elections is illegal in Turkey for the time being, Bahçeli said, "If a change is to be made to the electoral laws … alliance should be legalized."

Demonstrating possible alliances on a sheet, Bahçeli called it the "People's Alliance."

While these statements were considered to be the ruling AK Party and the MHP testing the waters to forge an alliance in the 2019 elections, Erdoğan hinted on Dec. 28 that discussion about this issue should not be rushed.

"In fact we [AK Party] already have kind of alliance with the MHP on issues concerning Turkey's national interests. But we should not be rushed about this issue. However, everybody should not speculate on this matter. Discussions between political party leaders are the best way to continue," Erdoğan said.

It is obvious that the MHP will support the AK Party's presidential candidate as it does provide support to the party in other areas, the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research's (SETA) Domestic Politics Director Dr. Nebi Miş said.

Stressing that the general elections will be essential for the MHP, Miş contended that it has concerns regarding the national election threshold.

"It is an understandable situation that the MHP attempts to seek alliances for the 2019 elections and have the election threshold be lowered," he said.

However, Dr. Altunoğlu believes that the election threshold is not the only reason for the MHP.

"The İYİ Party (Good Party) seems to harm the MHP one way or another. Given the fact that the MHP had 11.9 percent of votes in November 2015, it is most probable that it will face problems regarding the election threshold. However, it would be unjust to consider that the only reason for the MHP's support to the AK Party is the election threshold," he said.

In the meantime the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) hinted they are also seeking alternatives against a possible AK Party-MHP alliance.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has implied his potential candidacy for the presidential election scheduled for 2019.

"This is a matter beyond any one party. In the April 2017 constitutional amendment referendum people went beyond parties. In the 2019 election we should also provide that too," Kılıçdaroğlu said on Dec. 28 while claiming that the CHP will seek alliances "not on the basis of political parties but on the basis of democracy."

Actually Pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputies have been calling on the CHP for alliance in the 2019 elections for a while now. Apparently the newly established İYİ Party would also like to be a part of this alliance.

İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener has said that her party might support the CHP if their candidate goes to the second round.

Stressing that the İYİ Party will present its own candidate in the presidential elections, she said she wants to form an alliance with the liberal Democratic Party (DP) and conservative opposition Felicity Party (SP).

"We will not form an alliance with the CHP in the first round, because in the presidential elections, all parties have to present their own candidates. The İYİ Party has an ambition. The moment that you form an alliance with the CHP, our votes will disappear," she said on Dec. 28.

"The bloc against the AK Party and MHP includes the CHP, HDP, FETÖ [the Gülenist Terror Group] and almost the entire Turkish left. Neither the Turkish leftists nor FETÖ have significant support from the public. However, it should not be neglected that they have hegemonic powers. We see how they use every tool to their benefit," Dr. Altunoğlu said.

Meanwhile, responding to rumors that the CHP may also seek an alliance in 2019, Miş said a policy against Erdoğan and the AK Party started right after the April 16 referendum.

Arguing that the CHP will decide on whether it will go with a joint candidate or one of its own, the SETA expert said the CHP will have to seek support from the outside anyway.

"Because it is difficult to win 50 percent plus one with a potential of 25 percent," he concluded.

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