The next Turkish elections won’t be between parties, but fronts
Turkey‘s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has announced the establishment of his Future Party (FP) in Ankara on December 13. He highlighted the need of a liberal constitution and a parliamentary democracy instead of the current concentration of powers in President Tayyip Erdogan’s hands and the need for the separation of powers as well as the separation of religion from government affairs. This can be interpreted as learning the hard way, since Davutoğlu used to be Erdoğan’s PM.
Erdoğan’s former economy captain Ali Babacan is expected to announce his party later this month or the next – the words goes around that it will be on January 5.
Both Davutoğlu’s and Babacan’s parties have emerged from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Up until last week, President Tayyip Erdoğan was trying to downplay those developments, but it looks like he’s starting to take them seriously, following the recent polls. One of the notable aspects of these recent polls is that AKP continues to lose the grassroots. And this shift in the grassroots tends towards the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), without which Erdoğan could not be elected President. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s strategy strengthens his party, as AKP becomes more and more dependent on the former. AKP alienating the Kurdish voters due to its alliance with MHP is yet another factor.
There are now two more options for conservative/religious Kurdish voters alienated by AKP who do not want to vote for Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Republican People’s Party (CHP) or Good Party (GP): Davutoğlu and Babacan.
According to the polls, Davutoğlu and Babacan won’t be able to surpass the 10 percent election threshold. But that isn’t too important anymore. Because the 50+1 system, adopted after Erdoğan’s “no more coalitions” discourse, has not only fettered him but also triggered a period of big coalitions, or rather fronts.
An elections of fronts, not parties
It doesn’t matter whether it’s early or timely; the next elections won’t be between parties: it will be between fronts.
On the one hand, one front asks to preserve the current system where the president holds all the authority and where jurisdiction stays in the second plan. This front will strive to re-elect Erdoğan and President; this front also looks dependent on or condemned to Erdoğan’s candidacy: the confidence in Erdoğan’s person, after all, is much greater than the confidence in the whole front. So it’s unlikely they’ll move forward with any candidate other than Erdoğan.
On the other hand, there are parties in favor of reverting to an improved parliamentary system, of the parliament gaining strength, and of taking the governmental influence off of jurisdiction; their common denominator will be to make sure Erdoğan won’t get elected. It looks like who will be the candidate of this front won’t be of major importance; what matters is that the front can get big enough to accumulate the 50+1 percent rate.
The architect is Kılıçdaroğlu
The founder of this large-scoped front is CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The process started by him “lending” 15 deputies to Meral Akşener’s GP, which had been prevented from entering the elections by the AKP-MHP front. The fact that Akşener did not support Abdullah Gül as the common presidential candidate did not affect this process negatively. And CHP’s policy was rewarded in the 2018 local elections. Erdoğan had wished that the CHP-GP (center-left/center-right) alliance would disintegrate as a result of the military campaign in Syria, but it got even stronger, much to Erdoğan’s disappointment.
The news came out that Davutoğlu had repudiated Erdoğan’s last-minute pleas through intermediates. There remains Babacan. If he, too, establishes his party, Erdoğan will have no choice but to try and pull at least one of these parties towards his front. Of course, there’s also the option of trying to make up with the Kurdish-problem-focused HDP once again, but both AKP’s alliance with MHP and HDP’s sentiments about Erdoğan make this a rather challenging option.
It’s from this bigger picture that we can say that the next elections will be between fronts and not parties.