Davutoğlu Returns Mandate, Early Elections Likely

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is likely to call snap elections rather than give other parties a chance to govern.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu of Turkey observe a military ceremony, July 9
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu of Turkey observe a military ceremony, July 9 (Turkish Presidency)

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu returned his mandate to form a government on Wednesday, two months after elections robbed his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) of its majority in parliament.

Coalition talks with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) broke down last week while the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) ruled out supporting an AKP-led government.

Davutoğlu did not explore options with the left-wing and pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) which crossed the 10 percent election threshold for the first time in June, contributing to the ruling party’s defeat.

Rather than give the CHP a mandate to form a government, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the former AKP leader, is expected to call snap elections. He said on Tuesday he would prefer an interim “election cabinet” to be formed for two months before Turks return to the polls.

The HDP immediately said it would be willing to join such a caretaker government but the other two parties are seen as reluctant to share cabinet positions with the Kurds.

Observers believe Davutoğlu and Erdoğan favor early elections to suppress the Kurdish vote and regain the AKP’s majority.

Turkey launched launched airstrikes against Islamist and Kurdish militant groups in both Turkey and Syria in July and arrested hundreds of Turks suspected of links with radical Islamists, Kurdish separatists and far-leftists.

What the government describes as a “synchronized war on terror” is seen by critics as an attempt to suppress support for the HDP. Allies of the ruling party accuse the HDP of having ties with the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a charge the politicians deny.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its NATO allies, has broken a two-year truce and resumed fighting in the wake of the state’s antiterror campaign. Far-left terrorists also recently attacked the American consulate in Istanbul.

The violence does not appear to dented the HDP’s popularity. Polls show it winning between 12.8 and 14.1 percent support, roughly similar to the 13 percent it got in June’s election. Snap elections could produce almost the exact same outcome which would plunge Turkey into an even deeper political crisis.

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