By Ömer Faruk Gençkaya (Marmara University)
After an uninterrupted 12-year period of running a majority government, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) faced a real challenge in the latest parliamentary elections on June 7, 2015. The AKP, which lost its primary objectives of democracy, pluralism and accountability, had fallen short to form a majority government for the first time since the 2002 elections. The electoral turnout was about 84%, and 3% of the votes were invalid.
The AKP based its campaign strategy on further “polarization” by inflaming nationalist-religious sentiments and using the conspiracy theory of a “parallel state” and similar alleged plots. President Erdogan, as the founder of the AKP, also organized more than 35 meetings (“parallel campaigns”) and mentioned the AKP’s victory directly or indirectly. The president violated the principle of “impartiality”, which is laid down in the constitution, several times and abused state resources in the elections, but the Supreme Election Board, which is the sole authority to conduct the elections, declared its lack of competence. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) forged ahead with its economic policy promises that confused the government party. The Nationalist Action Party (MHP) stood firm against the “solution process” for the Kurdish issue as well as “17-25 December Corruption Scandals”. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) entered the elections as a political party claiming to become a nationwide party rather than an ethnic regional party with a slogan of democracy for everybody.
It was definitely another crucial election for several other reasons. First, the authoritarian tendencies in law and practice, especially in the media increased societal tensions. Second, President Erdogan’s insistence on regime change from parliamentary to presidential negatively influenced the principle of the separation of powers in practice. Third, uncertainties about the future of the Kurdish issue and its “solution” process intermingled with the first two reasons. Besides, failures in economic policy objectives, foreign policy, and the lack of executive accountability also led to the question of “law and order” in public.
Even pro-government opinion research companies predicted that the AKP would not secure more than 43% of the votes and that the HDP would manage to pass the 10% nationwide threshold. The results brought about no single-party government alternatives: AKP secured 40,66%, CHP 25,13%, MHP 16,45%, and HDP 12,96%.
This picture triggered reactions from the President and Mr. Bahceli, the leader of MHP, indicating that “an early election” was highly probable. Mr. Bahceli also underlined that the nation offered them an opportunity to act as the main opposition party, and that the other side should form a coalition.
After the election day, there were several alternative government scenarios. These were based on numerical majority to secure a vote of confidence (276 seats). First, a grand coalition of the AKP and the CHP was considered to restore public order, eliminate polarization, and stabilize the economy and foreign policy. This alternative would also contribute to the solution of the Kurdish issue in a parliamentary setting. Second, the AKP and the MHP, which are basically supported by similar voters, collaborated in the recent past on the headscarf issue, the election of former President Gul, and the 2010 constitutional referendum. However, the MHP’s firm stance on the above mentioned issues would make this option less likely. Third, the AKP and the HDP, which carried out the process of “solution”, could form a government to continue its future efforts. By contrast, the HDP followed a different campaign strategy and severed its ties with the AKP. Moreover, the party underlined that “they would not let Mr. Erdogan be elected as president”. Furthermore, Mr. Demirtas, the leader of the HDP, expressed the view that they would not set up a coalition with the AKP and closed the door on this arrangement. Thus, this option automatically dropped.
Fourth, there was the possibility of another grand coalition composed of the CHP, the MHP and the HDP or the CHP, with the MHP being supported by the HDP from outside or with the CHP and the HDP being supported by the MHP from outside. Mr. Kılıçdaroglu, leader of the CHP, expressed the view that they might invite Mr. Bahceli to be prime minister in a future coalition of the anti-AKP block. Mr. Bahceli replied him: “Who are you that you propose my name as the new Prime Minister?” In fact, during the election of the speaker of the new Grand National Assembly of Turkey, both parties nominated separate candidates and the AKP candidate won the election against the opposition block. The MHP candidate was Mr. Ihsanoglu, who was nominated jointly by the CHP and the MHP for the last presidential election. This was the first breakup between the two parties. On the other hand, although the MHP and HDP received 80 seats in the elections and sit next to each other in the general assembly, the former considered the latter as the legal collaborator of the PKK terrorists; therefore, such options were also impossible in practice. Finally, a minority government would be formed by any of the political parties, but this option was not spelled out explicitly.
People said that President Erdogan was preoccupied with a single government alternative for personal objectives. On the other hand, Mr. Davutoglu regarded a coalition government as a serious option. But he was unable to develop a self-portrait leadership in the party. Therefore, it is not so critical to discuss why they failed to form a coalition government. The President wanted to call either a repeat election or force the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to take a decision on an early election. Since the latter was difficult for numerical reasons, he manipulated the first option by playing with the procedure.
The formation of a new government, following an announcement on the official election results by the Board, exposed an unusual process compared to former practices. Generally, the presidents of the Republic gave a prime minister-designate one week