Cosmetic coalition games

It is tempting for foreign policy analysts to speculate on what may change in Turkish policy towards the Middle East, particularly in the context of Syria, or in Turkish-American relations in the light of the recent election results.
Yet, such speculation will be meaningless if the elections fail to produce a coalition government and the country goes to early elections. Given all the preconditions presented by the opposition parties for a coalition with the Justice and Development Party (AKP), it looks like forming a new government will prove to be a monumental challenge.
It is perhaps understandable why both the Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are so reluctant to form a government with the AKP. In any coalition formula, the AKP will have the aantage of numbers, both in terms of seats in Parliament and the percentage of votes received. It is only normal that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will want to capitalize on this aantage and exert their power to control the most critical ministries in the Cabinet. This is why the CHP and MHP are in the unenviable position of having to negotiate from a position of weakness. It is exactly to compensate for such weakness that both parties are opening the negotiations with exuberant demands that set the bar too high for any kind of realistic compromise.
For instance, it is hard to imagine why the AKP should agree to CHP demands for equal sharing of Cabinet seats. The rotation of the Prime Ministry is also hard to contemplate for an incumbent that received 41 percent of the vote and is only 18 parliamentary seats short of forming a government on its own.
On the other hand, it is equally understandable why the CHP is making such demands. CHP voters hate the AKP and they would have a very difficult time digesting the sight of power-sharing unless the conditions are really in favor of their party. It is also clear that in any coalition scenario, the party sharing power with the AKP will be blamed for not changing the political, economic and foreign policy dynamics in a more positive direction. Given the inevitable downturn in the economy over the next couple of years, the coalition partner of the AKP will share the blame at a time at a time when there will be no success to share.
Under such circumstances, it is much more tempting to be in opposition to a weakened incumbent and try to reap the benefits in the next elections. This seems to be the calculation of MHP leader Devlet Bahandceli, who is showing absolutely no enthusiasm to govern. Add to this picture the fact that the pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) has ruled out a coalition with the AKP and you have all the ingredients for early elections. As I argued in my last column, this is the scenario that Erdogan most probably prefers. The reason is simple. The election has produced uncertainty. It will only take a few signs of deterioration in the security situation for people to develop a sense of nostalgia for the days when stability and economic growth were taken for granted. The most important question in Erdoganand’s mind is probably the following: andquotIs it possible for the AKP to do worse than 41 percent in early elections?andquot
The answer to this question depends on another question: andquotIf there is major economic, security and political turbulence during the next few months, where would voters go to find a safe harbor?andquot The obvious answer is the AKP. This is why Erdogan believes the AKP can do slightly better in the next elections. And doing slightly better will be all it takes to form the new government without any coalition headache. Calling early elections is a risk well worth taking for Erdogan.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman