The events that have taken place in Turkey over the course of the past few days are not normal news by any means. For the first time, the ruling figure of a party steps down, or rather, is disqualified from office at the height of his success, as is evidenced by the economic status of the country despite internal and external pressures.
Others and I have written a great deal about the tensions between the Turkish president and the prime minister and the disagreements that are taking place between the two men over the powers that each one holds in a regime that currently cannot have two heads of power. It has become evident that Davutoglu was ousted against his will.
What happened was democratic at the end of the day, despite the fact that many believe the opposite to be true. The majority of the current ruling party (AKP) agreed to the decision that led to Davutoglu’s resignation. It appeared as though his presence was merely decorative or an outlet for other decisions to be made. And yet, the manner in which the resignation took place was contrary both to the style of the Justice and Development Party and the desires of the people and how they would have wanted such a step to take place.
At the end of the day, then, Davutoglu made his final departure from the scene despite the will of the party or their decision to ask him to do so. It appears that there lacked complete harmony with the presidency. Therefore, it remains evident that there are several ways that we can approach this issue and analyse how it may affect the future. Was there no way for the conflict to be resolved by meeting halfway? And why did the intermediaries who tried to convince Davutoglu to go back on his decision fail to do so? Especially since the public is aware of how changes in the ruling party occur. Such a decision will undoubtedly cloud both the ruling party and its opposition’s judgements on the future. Some individuals will likely also fear for the future of the party depending on who will follow Davutoglu.
The search for a political gain for the party, government and/or presidency has now started after this unprecedented decision. Moving beyond the question of personal disagreements, the AKP’s predicament is not being able to get the number of seats that it would require to pass the constitutional referendum in the parliament (367 out of 550 seats) or even enough votes to constitute the public majority (330 seats). For this reason, it would require nearly 14 members of parliament to get to the minimum requirement of 316 seats. In the event that this does not take place, the alternative is another option, one that cannot be trusted, because it would require all of the AKPs deputies to vote in secret.
Therefore, the idea of early elections was proposed as a way out of the current impasse even though the literature published by the Turkish president states that premature elections will not be held except in a state of emergency. The reason behind this is to ensure the stability and development of the political scene and the economy. Although, it would appear that the current state of affairs in Turkey has recently opened people’s appetites to this possibility.
Due to its failure to remove the AKP from rule, in addition to its inability to form a viable coalition with other parties last June, it appears as though the two main opposition parties in the parliament, the CHP and the MHP, are currently experiencing a multitude of internal problems to the decline in popularity in public opinion.
The MHP has been experiencing a number of problems for months now after members called upon the organisation to revive its foundational structure, which includes the election of a new president aside from Devlet Bahceli, who has been the party’s president since 1997. Popular demands have not been met with any success and the internal opposition within the party has also been ignored. The issue has now been redirected to the courts and Bahceli has been confronted with four other party leader nominations and a petition with more than 543 signatures. One court even issued a verdict that declared the MHP’s leadership and foundational framework as illegitimate. The four other nominees, who stand in opposition to Bahceli, have recently announced that they have acquired 748 new signatures in support of forming a new party framework beginning next month.
The court’s decision is now waiting on a larger verdict from the Supreme Court. The subliminal or invisible support provided by the media for Erdogan is provided under the pretext that the AKP is under threat from the opposition, which has tried to gain control over the former party. There are also rumours that the AKP and/or Erdogan are supporting Bahceli’s tenure. The truth is that despite the validity of this possibility, the current turmoil stands to benefit the AKP and does so from various sides. The issue remains that the oppositional movement is quite weak and has been fragmented by internal issues. Many people have been looking to the AKP to offer compromises in terms of the constitution. Several factors have indicated that this could potentially happen or, at least, that there are several positive changes under way for the party’s new leadership.
In addition to the MHP’s internal crisis, one must add that the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) has currently lost much its popularity due to their support for the Kurdish PKK, which is considered to be a terrorist party in Turkey. The HDP now finds itself with less than ten per cent of the vote, which is the minimum it needs to enter parliamentary elections.
In summary, even if early elections prevent parties from participating in parliamentary elections, there is a possibility that the Kurds will enter the race as independents, which would mean that the majority of votes are likely to go to the Justice and Development party. Therefore, the AKP will be able to secure the number of votes it needs to control the presidential seat and pass the constitutional referendum.
While it is true that the official literature of the AKP prohibits early elections without a pressing reason and while the decision to hold elections would place Turkey in further turmoil, the result of the elections would not bring about concrete changes. Voters may warn the AKP from holding early elections again by suggesting an outcome similar to last June’s elections. The great majority will not allow these constitutional changes to pass without major opposition. Regardless, one cannot miss that this is an excellent opportunity for President Erdogan and Davutoglu’s successor because it allows him to ensure the constitutional changes that are needed for Turkey’s future.
This scenario, despite its sensitivities and dangers, despite what it is built on or what it may open the door to, may explain why the AKP was willing to change the leader of its party. The cost, however, was a heavy one to pay by the architect of Turkey’s foreign policy. Some have gone as far as to set the projected date for the early parliamentary elections but that outcome remains to be seen and will be influenced by a number of factors and statistics, as well as calculations of profits and losses at the time.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.