Snap Elections Likely After Turkish Coalition Talks Fail

Turkey’s ruling Islamist party will try to win back its majority by suppressing support for the opposition Kurds.

Ahmet Davutoğlu
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu attends a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington DC, November 18, 2013 (DoD/Sergeant Aaron Hostutler)

Turkey is likely to see snap elections this autumn after coalition talks between its two biggest political parties broke down on Thursday.

Caretaker prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters there were “no grounds right now to form a government partnership” after meeting with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), in Ankara.

Although Davutoğlu said education and foreign policy were among the main sticking points, Kılıçdaroğlu insisted that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was only interested in a short-term deal until new elections could be called.

The Islamist AKP lost its majority in June after twelve years in power.

It has since launched airstrikes against Islamist and Kurdish militant groups in both Turkey and Syria 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 observers as also an attempt to suppress support for the left-wing and pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) which crossed the 10 percent election threshold for the first time this year, denying the AKP another election victory.

The effort has convinced the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to break a two-year truce and resume fighting. Far-left terrorists attacked the American consulate in Istanbul.

Both the CHP and the HDP campaigned against the ruling party’s majoritarianism and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s proposal to change his office from a ceremonial function into an American-style executive presidency.

AKP critics fear that an executive presidency would allow Erdoğan to manipulate Turkey’s democratic institutions and suppress dissent. He needs either a two-thirds majority to unilaterally change the Constitution or three-fifths of the seats in parliament to call a referendum on reform.

The former prime minister, who won every election for the AKP between 2002 and 2014, is seen as still leading his party and the government, despite formally assuming the nonpartisan presidency last year.

The AKP has recently been battered by graft accusations and mass protests. Under Erdoğan’s leadership, it went on the offensive against its opponents. Hundreds of police officers, prosecutors and judges who were involved in corruption probes were purged. Demonstrations were violently broken up. The party’s inability to defend its majority in June was seen as a repudiation of this combative policy.

The AKP could still strike a coalition deal with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the fourth in the Grand National Assembly. But it has said the chances of an agreement are slim and early elections should anyway be called.