Which way for Erdogan (The Cyprus Weekly, 6 July 2015)
By Esra Aygin
Some 56 million voters will to go to polls on Sunday in Turkey’s parliamentary elections that are likely to create political turmoil in the country no matter what the outcome.
Many analysts are concerned that a Justice and Development Party that comes out of the elections stronger would spell as much trouble for the country as a weakened Justice and Development Party that is forced to form a coalition.
The election may see the ruling AKP lose its single-party government for the first time since it rose to power in 2002. It comes at a time when hopes for a solution in Cyprus run high and will have important implications for the peace process.
AKP, which has single-handedly ruled Turkey for the last 13 years, is going to the polls with aspirations of securing a super majority (over 2/3 of the seats) in the 550-seat parliament.
A super majority would enable the party to change the constitution, without having to hold a referendum, to end the country’s parliamentary system and shift to a presidential system.
This would give President Tayyip Erdoğan broader powers. However, at least three polls published in the run-up to the elections indicate that AKP, let alone winning a super majority, will struggle to even secure enough seats in parliament to continue to govern as a single party – meaning it could be forced to form a coalition government.
Polls indicate that the decrease in support for AKP, which currently has 311 seats, is mainly due to financial difficulties as a result of stalling economic growth and high unemployment.
The increasingly authoritarian and oppressive rule by AKP, restrictions on fundamental freedoms, corruption allegations involving senior AKP officials, and lavish spending have also played a role in the weakening support for the party.
The performance of pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party HDP will also be decisive in determining the next government in Turkey.
If it wins enough votes to break the 10% threshold required to gain seats in parliament, it could deny AKP a single party government. Different polls position HDP about a percentage point below and above the threshold.
Although a super majority– or over 367 seats – by AKP is seen as a highly unlikely outcome, it is still one of the possibilities.
Analysts agree that such a result would lead to an institutionalisation of authoritarianism in Turkey, further undermining necessary checks and balances in governance and render Erdoğan even more aggressive against his opponents.
Some commentators draw attention to the existing tensions between President Erdoğan and the AKP government and argue that such an outcome would worsen the situation.
“Turkey’s problem is Erdoğan,” wrote renowned journalist Hasan Cemal in a recent article.
“And not only the senior officials of AKP, but even Erdoğan’s close aides increasingly acknowledge this fact… It is no longer a secret that AKP is contemplating behind closed doors how to get rid of Erdoğan.”
A coalition government is also likely to be problematic – especially if it is with the Nationalist Movement Party MHP.
Given its hardline stance on many issues it could prove ineffective in taking decisions and spoil consensus on sensitive issues such as Cyprus and the Kurdish problem.
Some political analysts argue that a third scenario, where AKP wins a simple majority with at least 276 and less than 330 seats, would be the most positive outcome.
In such a case, AKP would have the majority to form a single-party government, but not have enough seats to change the constitution.
They state that this would tame Erdoğan’s aspirations and force AKP to follow a less authoritarian and more conciliatory approach, while at the same time, providing for the stability of a single party government.
“Everybody is unhappy with where Turkey is going with an overambitious Erdoğan. It is going nowhere. A coalition government on the other hand would further complicate things and bears the risk of bringing AKP back stronger.”
“The best outcome would be AKP leading the election with a small margin that would just enable it to form a single-party government,” said International Relations Professor Ahmet Sözen.
No matter what the outcome is this Sunday, it seems rather certain that Cyprus will not be among the priorities or concerns of Ankara for quite some time and this is deemed invaluable by those following the process closely.
Journalist Sinan Dirlik said in Yenidüzen newspaper: “Turkey is heading for a very tense period.
“If AKP gains a majority that would enable it to change the constitution, the country’s agenda will completely change. The same goes if it cannot garner enough support to change the constitution and has to go to a referendum.”
“Things will be even more complicated if AKP has to form a coalition.
“While the ‘motherland’ is preoccupied with other things, it will be very important for Cyprus to take advantage of this, and take the steps to bring the two communities closer and to strengthen the dream of a common future.”