Scenarios getting clear to exit political bottleneck in Turkey

Both the AKP-MHP and the CHP-İYİ Party are looking for a way out of the political and economic bottleneck in Turkey.

Both the People’s Alliance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Nation Alliance of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the İYİ Party have two scenarios each, according to the political backstage.

These scenarios were not as clear as today in the aftermath of the 2019 local elections that resulted in the AKP’s defeat, despite gains of the MHP.

What played role in the process that led these scenarios to become more clear were partly the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic that shook the world and party the depreciation of the economic balances due to stubborn interest rate-foreign exchange policy. 

The search for way out of the current economic and political bottleneck has intensified in the ruling and opposition fronts; both publicly and behind closed doors.

Before moving on to these scenarios, let’s look into the reasons for that in the light of the behind-the-scene motives of some developments in the last few days.

Pandemic, reform and sale to Qatar

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca’s announcement that Turkey is one of the worst-performing countries in the struggle against the pandemic is not only due to economic reasons. The World Health Organization  (WHO) will allocate vaccines to each country in correlation with the data they have publicly announced. As the mortality and case figures are announced below that they really are for the sake of looking successful, the amount of vaccine to be allocated to Turkey will drop. Despite the devoted efforts of healthcare professionals, there is no success story left due to administrative weaknesses but ironically this might result in more vaccine transport to Turkey.

On Nov. 27, the day that tradesmen protests were announced in Istanbul, Treasury and Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül will gather in Istanbul with Simone Kaslowski, the chair of Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD). They are said to discuss the judicial and economic reform that President Erdogan announced after his son-in-law Berat Albayrak resigned and replaced by Elvan. Will the judiciary reform aim at boosting the quality of the democracy in the country or will it be limited to a target of attracting more investment? This question lingers.

Now it has become more obvious why Erdoğan has not “allowed” Albayrak to leave his seat as the vice president of the Turkey Wealth Fund (TVF), along with his ministerial post. The 10 percent stake in Borsa Istanbul under the management of TVF has been sold to Qatar. With the agreement signed by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Erdoğan on Nov. 26, Qatar has gained control over many other assets. The moves in the TVF are not limited to the Qatari purchase. We will see it soon. (In late afternoon Nov. 27, Erdoğan dismissed Albayrak from the TVF position. Reshuffles are expected, according to sources who asked not to be named. *)

Two scenarios on the ruling front

Albayrak was one of the untold disturbances in the AKP grassroots; he is family.

Another disturbance is that MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli is now interfering not only in the government affairs but also the AKP. It looks like the storm has been weathered by scapegoating Bülent Arınç, a former AKP strongman, but we do not know whose next.

The first scenario in the People’s Alliance front is that Erdoğan will keep walking with Bahçeli. In this scenario, the discomfort within the AKP will occasionally raise but the situation will be tried to be sustained until the 2023 election. The move at that stage may be a snap election that would pave the way for Erdoğan to run for another term. With the scope of this scenario, fundamental reforms cannot be implemented, and only administrative and economic arrangements that Bahçeli allows can be made.

The second scenario is that Erdoğan will not continue with Bahçeli. In this case, he can still preserve his presidency, but this can be possible through a Constitutional amendment that requires compromise with other parties. It is possible to strengthen the Parliament and the judiciary and to keep Erdogan as president through compromise. And it is clear that support by  İYİ Party would not be enough for that.

Two scenarios on the opposition front

Similar scenarios are becoming apparent within both the CHP and İYİ Party.

A first group says we should push the government for early elections. The second group thinks the early election is unrealistic and a consensus with Erdoğan and the AKP to strengthen the parliament should be sought.

Currently in the first group with a louder and sharper voice looks ahead. They highlight that the votes of the AKP and the MHP are falling, according to polls, and they ask “when, if not now.” However, the very same polls show no increase in CHP and IYI Party votes. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) seems to be the only party that maintains its votes compared to the 2018 election, even with no increase.

The biggest challenge for the second group is the risk of intra-party accusations of “collaboration with Erdoğan.” The strong side of this scenario is the possibility of strengthening the parliament and the judiciary, even if Erdoğan remains in power. The same fact sits in the heart of both scenarios:

Bahçeli is obliged to cooperate with Erdoğan to be a part of the ruling side but Erdoğan is not obliged to Bahçeli to maintain his rule.

* Updated on 27 Nov 2020 at 17.18.


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