Turkey will remain without elected government into October

Turkey will remain without an elected government until at least some time in October, now that a new round of elections have been called, following a failure to form a coalition after the June elections.

“Turkey PM formally gives up on coalition as polls loom” | AFP:

Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday informed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan he had failed to form a coalition government, paving the way for new general elections just months after June polls.
According to the constitution, the AKP will be able to continue as a minority government until elections if a majority in parliament votes in favour of holding the early polls.

If however Erdogan uses his right to call the election himself, a so-called “election government” will be formed until the polls, consisting of members from all four parties represented in parliament.

Will fresh elections make much of a difference in the parliamentary outcome?

“Turkey’s Erdogan gambles on new election bid” | Al Jazeera America:

Despite the carnage, however, a resumption of fighting with the Kurds could prove electorally useful for Erdogan. Tol called the bombing campaign against the PKK in aftermath of the June election defeat as “very related to Erdogan’s political ambitions.” A number of Turkish polls have shown the AKP gaining ground since then.

To regain a majority in parliament, Erdogan has tried to appeal to nationalists who were previously wary of his outreach to the Kurds, and weaken the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) […]

But while Erdogan’s political fortunes seem to have shifted since the surprising June defeat, his new strategy is nonetheless risky.
“To go the polls at a time when people are being killed every single day can have a downside,” Sinan Ulgen, chairman of EDAM, an Istanbul-based think tank, told the Associated Press. “The arithmetic in Parliament won’t necessarily change.”

On that last note, see my June 10, 2015 estimates “New Turkey elections might be AKP’s worst option”. While I came in at the time for some fairly thoughtful but strong pushback on that rough assessment, via Twitter, I still think the math isn’t really going to shift all that dramatically in a way that favors the AKP, if it moves at all on balance.

True, little changes could tip the balance by getting 18 more seats (and thus a majority) to the AKP or by pushing the Kurdish-dominated HDP back under the 10% national threshold to qualify. But at the moment I still have my doubts.

June 10, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 130

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), 2015 Turkey elections. People: Bill, Nate, Persephone. Produced: June 8th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and why isn’t it getting more coverage?
– Do the recent elections in Turkey signal another turning point for the country’s democracy?

Episode 130 (52 min):
AFD 130

Related Links

Office of Elizabeth Warren trade history report (on past enforcement failures)
Peterson Institute report (on projected TPP growth)
The Globalist: Getting Past No on Trade Deals
The Globalist: What’s Next for the WTO? (on trade tribunals)
South Africa Business Report: Renegotiating Bilateral Treaties Should Not Scare Off Investors (on trade tribunals)
The Globalist: Trade Deals Must Allow for Regulating Finance
NY Times: Obama’s Covert Trade Deal
The Globalist: Barack Obama a “Progressive”? Teddy Roosevelt Wouldn’t Agree.
Huffington Post / Ralph Nader: 10 Reasons the TPP Is Not a ‘Progressive’ Trade Agreement
Our Turkey elections coverage
Hurriyet Daily News: Water cannon producer’s stock dips after Turkey’s ruling AKP loses majority


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New Turkey elections might be AKP’s worst option

I suspect the AKP will regret it sorely if they call another election immediately, which is an option that has already been floated by some of the AK membership’s sorer losers (or sore 18-seats-short plurality-winners).

Here’s my back-of-the-envelope assessment on why new elections would return an even worse result for the AK Party than most other longer-term options, including a weak minority government or an unpleasant coalition arrangement. First, I bet there aren’t a lot of people who cast a vote for a non-AK option on Sunday and then wished they hadn’t. The only exception would perhaps be some small share of the 942,000 cranky voters for the Felicity Party — the minor Islamist party that shares roots with AKP…but it is generally antagonistic because of the shared background. The trendline is very much against the AKP, and buyer’s remorse from the first round is more likely to hurt them than to hurt the other major parties. The AKP in 2015 lost 2.3 million votes since the 2014 presidential election less than a year ago, despite 6 million higher turnout. To be honest, I wonder how the AKP didn’t see this month’s result coming after the lower-turnout presidential election saw the HDP get 9.76%, just shy of the 10% cutoff that applies in a parliamentary race. That meant they were credibly within reach and needed to be taken more seriously (especially to be a potential partner), rather than marginalized, literally attacked, and otherwise mishandled.

Second, there was a fairly large number of people who cast votes either for AKP or for a minor party (they collectively got about ~2.5 million votes I think) that I believe would vote for a different Big 3 opposition party now, knowing how everyone else ended up voting in the first round. In particular, I bet HDP would get an even bigger result in a fresh election now that it’s clear they can pass the 10% threshold so it’s not a “waste” to vote for them. Kurds, other minority voters, and Turkish allies in the electorate are likely to be even more enthusiastic about the party’s message and viability alike in an immediate second election, riding the successful momentum of the first one. The party specifically picked up a huge chunk of Kurdish ex-AKP supporters — and that’s likely to go up, if it goes any direction.

Third, even if AK holds fairly steadily onto its own voters but some 2 million minor-party voters shifted across to the Big 3 opposition parties in a second election, a CHP/MHP/HDP tripartite arrangement would emerge with the support of 27 million votes, not just 25 million. A narrower CHP/HDP liberal coalition would reach perhaps 18 million votes…which is just shy of what AKP got this time. That’s not enough for a liberal majority either, but it probably would land only 18-20 seats away. Between possible confidence-vote options from MHP (in theory anyway) and the more realistic scenario of HDP shaving off a fair number of additional MPs from AKP in Kurdish constituencies in a second round, I’d bet they could make it work some way or another. Which is not to say that such a coalition would be stable.

But it is to suggest (along with the other factors above) that AKP is probably looking at a far rosier scenario under their current performance than after a 2nd election.

Now to make lemonade out of lemons and demonstrate the rosier world than new elections, let’s acknowledge that there are some pretty acceptable coalition/cooperation scenarios if the AKP wants to seize the opportunity under the hand it was just dealt. Preliminary AKP/CHP talks have begun. One particularly exciting scenario for Turkey and the AK Party alike would be if Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu reached a deal that stripped significance powers away and platform out from under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sidelining him (and silencing him to the extent humanly possible) — rather than elevating him further — and finally allowing Davutoğlu to fly on his own. He’s been really squashed trying to escape Erdoğan’s shadow, but he always seemed pretty decent and very competent, with far less personal baggage than his benefactor. He could break the link between the party and its increasingly authoritarian / rogue party founder, Mr. Erdoğan. The party could move past him (and get on with the good work it had been doing under his leadership before he began to go around the bend in 2013), voters would be less alarmed by returning an AK majority to power in the near future, and Turkey’s democracy would be stronger.


Turkish riot dispersal industry takes a hit (really)

The business section English-language Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reports “Water cannon producer’s stock dips after Turkey’s ruling AKP loses majority.”

The largest supplier of police water cannons in Turkey has seen a steep fall in its stock prices, hours after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority.

Shares in Katmerciler Ekipman, the company that manufactures the riot control vehicles popularly known as TOMAs, decreased 10 percent early June 8.

The fall was worse than the average decline in Borsa Istanbul stock prices, which saw a fall as low as 8.15 percent in its opening following the June 7 general elections.

The reason? Turns out it will be probably harder to win government contracts to hose down protesters when they voted for the government’s likely coalition partners. It’s also hard when your company depended on a suspiciously close relationship with the ruling party very specifically:

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said the government “would buy 10 new TOMAs for each one destroyed” by ongoing street protests in the country.

The company, which is owned by a former AKP deputy, İsmail Katmerci, emerged as one of the biggest winners from the nationwide Gezi Park demonstrations in 2013.

The new big winner is likely to be less partisan alternatives for acquiring riot dispersal tools — like UK-based manufacturers for example. The AK Party may have lost its majority in Turkey and may be on the verge of joining a coalition, but the Conservatives in Britain just got out of a coalition and into a majority government. That means five more years of extremely enthusiastic government approvals of arms sales to governments engaged in suppressing popular demonstrations by their own people. With rigorous oversight, of course. Wink.

And regardless of who comes to power in Turkey’s next government, there will still be a purchases to be made: Turkish passion for authoritarian over-reactions to mild criticism is sadly likely to continue for a while longer.

Riot police in action during Gezi park protests in Istanbul, June 16, 2013. (Credit: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia)

Riot police in action during Gezi park protests in Istanbul, June 16, 2013. (Credit: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia)

Turkey Elections: Down to the wire

In January, I published my article “The Questions Posed by the World’s 2015 Elections,” in which I identified the 15 national elections around the world that I thought presented the most intriguing or important questions this year. Chronologically, Turkey’s parliamentary election held today will come as number five for the year (tied with Mexico, which is holding its midterm legislative elections today too).

Here are the questions I identified in January for Turkey’s election today:

Can PM-turned-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party continue to consolidate its electoral mandate in the assembly (and consolidate power to the presidency instead of the prime minister’s office) in the face of mounting questions about the government’s Syria policy, Kurdish policy, family policies, and general authoritarian trends? Mathematically, even without any authoritarianism, the answer is probably yes. Should they? That’s a trickier question.

The mathematical question is shaping up to be a potentially much more gripping one than expected then. The dramatic and complex Kurdish political gamble (see my explanation from March) actually looks like it has a shot of paying off in the form of the Kurdish HD Party clearing its entry threshold to join parliament — though it is still very much on the margin of success and failure. If they win just over 10% of the vote, Erdogan’s aspirations for constitutional reform will likely collapse because the HD Party will taken some 50 seats that the AKP could otherwise use to reach a supermajority. If the HDP win slightly less than 10%, they’ll be wiped out completely and amendments will happen. They are hovering on the brink according to polling analyzed at the Al-Monitor link above. There have also been violent bomb attacks against Kurdish political supporters in recent days; the reaction from Erdogan — whose dreams are threatened by the HDP’s surging support — was not overly sympathetic.
Read more

Authority Figure

Recep-Tayyip-ErdoganIn March, I noted that as part of Erdogan’s increasingly erratic and authoritarian behaviors, anti-“Insult” crackdowns on free speech are mounting in Turkey. Erdogan’s immoderate behavior of the last two years (since the Gezi Park riots) is complex and motivated by many factors — some reasonable, others less so. But as I’ve argued many times before, it fits a pattern of political practices that are fairly consistent with Turkish (and maybe even pre-Turkish Ottoman) political culture, and I do not believe his actions and statements are uniquely egregious or related to his political affiliation as an Islamist democrat.

I just ran across an interesting piece from Mustafa Akyol, April 10, 2014 (during the run-up to Erdogan’s successful presidential campaign last year), headlined “Turkey’s doctrine of pre-emptive authoritarianism” for Al-Monitor, which goes more into depth on the political culture angle and how (at least) some of this has been “performed” authoritarianism:

This doctrine, which has not been observed much in Turkey simply because it is taken as a fact of life, is based on a simple rule: In every political confrontation, the thing to do is to be as strong, defiant, stubborn and threatening as possible. Only then, the enemy will be crushed and victory will be secured. Otherwise, the enemy will begin to come after you, defeat you and will show no mercy. So, you should pre-emptively corner and weaken him as much as possible.

This doctrine does not believe in peaceful solutions that will come through negotiation, bargaining and consensus. Reasonable concessions, which could normally lead to such consensus-based solutions, are condemned as naivete, weakness and perhaps not outright treason.
It is not a first step forward toward reconciliation. It is rather the first step back toward downfall. Once the malicious people on the other side see your concession, they will become only more invigorated and aggressive. So you should keep them at bay by never accepting any of their demands and showing them how tough you are.
This is why while Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism puzzles the West, it makes him only more popular at home among his conservative base. In fact, most conservatives love Erdogan precisely for being so defiant. One could see this feeling on the huge posters of Erdogan that were put up all around Istanbul during the recent election campaign: They carried a resolute pose of the prime minister and two simple words: “iron will.”

To be sure, it is not just Erdogan’s supporters who love an iron will, but most of his opponents as well. For decades, Turkey’s secularists praised Ataturk’s authoritarian legacy and rallied behind the military, which insisted in oppressing the “reactionaries” and the “separatists,” or religious conservatives and Kurdish nationalists, with all means possible.

Obviously I’m not excusing any of this, because it’s consistently one of Turkey’s biggest political culture failings. And I don’t think historical context and behavior automatically exculpates Erdogan himself. But I think it’s important to see that there is a wider/longer context, so that it’s not blamed on his faith or political affiliation, which I think has been wrongly implicated by some commentators who have an agenda of tearing down democratic political Islam and the religion generally.

Turkey Elections 2015: The Kurdish Gambit

In a complex and probably ill-conceived gambit that I barely can follow, the leading national Kurdish political party in Turkey (the HDP, founded in 2012) will attempt to contest the June parliamentary elections as a single slate. They will pursue the slate option over Kurdish groups’ usual choice of running all parliamentary candidates as independents to qualify for seats reserved for non-party candidates.

The latter move was the course of action the party’s antecedents previously used in most national elections to skirt the country’s 10% national vote representation threshold for parties, which they have generally been (and continue to be) unlikely to achieve. So what prompted the decision to take the riskier move of running as a party and what might happen if it fails?

If the party manages to scrape past 10%, Kurds will have many more seats in Turkey’s parliament than at present, under a unified banner, and would be somewhat more influential. If they fail to reach 10%, even just barely, Kurdish representation in the national parliament will collapse — possibly to zero members — while handing as many as 50 extra seats to the ruling AK Party. This will have the double-whammy effect of giving the AKP enough seats to amend the constitution into an authoritarian executive system without needing multi-party support to do so. It will also conclusively demonstrate that Kurds have no voice in Turkish democracy.

At first glance, that would appear to be a devastating blow. But the plan comes with a silver lining that unfolds if the HDP implodes through a failed effort to reach 10% as a unit this year. The hardliner wing of Kurdish politics (i.e. the PKK militants instead of the pro-diplomacy HDP politicians) will see both ensuing results (no Kurdish representation and an authoritarian constitution) as openly validating the need for violent resistance (in an already heated pre-election environment). Ordinary Kurdish civilians will bear the brunt of the ensuing damage.

However, by wiping out the HDP in the national elections, their sister party DBP — which only contests local and regional elections — will suddenly become the leading political face of democratic Kurdish politics. DBP is currently the Kurdish equivalent in Turkey of Scotland’s SNP pre-2014 in the United Kingdom: A leftist party mostly focusing on regional-level politics but pro-separatist, which the nationwide left-leaning parties can’t endorse. That means the DBP’s rise to the face of Kurdish politics in Turkey in the aftermath of the HDP’s expected fall will also fuel political dysfunction to the benefit of the PKK hardliners. But, at the same time, the DBP will also remain a potential legal negotiating partner at the sub-national level, possibly for independence or substantial autonomy, if the Turkish government decides to come around on that.

And the only way that such a complex and Machiavellian scheme with “victory” scenarios from all outcomes (including crushing defeat) is possible is that all of these groups (the HD Party, the DB Party, and the PKK) are controlled by and following the orders of one man: Abdullah Ocalan. Now it remains to be seen which moves unfold in his elaborate chess game.

In the end of course, it might just be a plain old disaster rather than a clever scheme.

This post was transferred from G+ and edited for clarity.