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For Turkish parties, Erdogan is a headache

Backed by the popular support, the former Turkish government has long been accused of undermining Turkish institutions

Mahir Zeynalov

Published: Updated:

Backed by the popular support, the former Turkish government has long been accused of undermining Turkish institutions, burying democracy and restricting freedoms. Turkish people made sure on Sunday that this must be stopped.

The peaceful transition of parliamentary power is not evidence that Turkey is a democracy. It is proof that it still enjoys free and fair elections. Thanks to strong grass-roots movements, vigilant observers and powerful public opinion, the elections were largely in line with standards. This is good news.

It is no doubt that the Sunday’s elections reaffirmed Turkish society’s commitment to democracy and freedoms

Mahir Zeynalov

AKP lost its 13-year majority in the elections, thanks to the fourth party that made it into the parliament, bringing political uncertainty to the country. The ruling party, which gained 358 seats in the new parliament, will have to hold negotiations with the opposition to form a coalition government.

Cohabitation

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not a candidate. But the elections were all about him. He promoted a Turkish style of presidential system, without meaningful checks on his power in my view and many others’. It seems that voters punished him for building a lavish palace and seemingly seeking more power. For his electorate, it didn’t quite make sense how his political ambitions could make Turkey better.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu did not seem to be delighted either. He rarely used the presidential system as he stumped for his party across Turkey. On Wednesday, he told a Turkish TV channel that voters rejected presidential system and that he has the important say in government affairs, not the president. The latest electoral outcome, after all, saved his seat as the prime minister of the country.

In what many see as a violation of constitutional requirement, Erdogan didn’t stay above the political fray during the electoral campaign, crisscrossing the country to stump for his former party while ruthlessly targeting opposition politicians. For his part, Erdogan shrugged off criticism that he is in breach of constitutional impartiality, saying at a pre-election rally: “I am at an equal distance to all parties, but of course there is a party that is close to my heart.” However, he was seen by many as being at the center of the elections, turning the ballot into a referendum with his name on the ticket.

The new government will have to cohabitate with Erdogan, who usually ignores his constitutional boundaries. Even Davutoglu seems willing to sideline the president, seeking more independence while running his government. Any new coalition partner will absolutely demand that Erdogan stays out of the government’s affairs.

Erdogan is aware that no coalition government will accept his ambitious presidency. Turkish media reported that the president told Deniz Baykal, a CHP lawmaker, that he wants to repeat the elections in the hope that the AKP will surpass the necessary number of seats to restore a single-party rule.

Coalition talks

Almost all parties made clear in what conditions they will become a partner in a future coalition government. The AKP needs at least one party to form the coalition. Other parties will need to join hands to establish a government, which is unlikely because of deep-seated animosity between a pro-Kurdish HDP and nationalist MHP.

HDP promised before the elections that it won’t become part of an AKP-led coalition government. CHP and MHP announced that they want to see Erdogan within his constitutional boundaries. Both parties are still open to a coalition with the AKP, but will not accept Erdogan interfering in the affairs of the government.

Another contentious issue is the corruption allegations that blew up in December 2013. The government’s furious response to the graft scandal drew the anger of both opposition and Western capitals.

Both MHP and CHP said they won’t deal with the AKP unless corruption suspects face prosecution. I personally believe it is unlikely that the AKP will accept the demand, given that the corruption scandal may unleash a monster that will be very difficult to tame.

Because the AKP dominated the center right of the political continuum, it is hard for other parties to join efforts in forming a coalition government. A new IPSOS poll conducted this week revealed that more than half of the AKP and MHP electorate are open to the coalition between the two parties. But MHP wants the ruling party to abandon the Kurdish peace process. MHP claims that AKP’s talks with Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is tantamount to treason.

New era

No matter what type of government will be formed after the negotiations, which should conclude in 45 days, Turkey’s new rulers will be subject to relatively better functioning checks and balances.

Because Turkey is a parliamentary democracy, many institutions will positively be affected by the pluralism in the national assembly. Parliamentary commissions and state watchdogs will be dominated by opposition members while the new assembly could kill any anti-democratic legislation that the AKP endorsed and adopt resolutions without the consent of the ruling party.

It is no doubt that the Sunday’s elections reaffirmed Turkish society’s commitment to democracy and freedoms, stopped who I see as an ambitious and pugnacious man with authoritarian proclivities and spawned an era that will put Turkey back on track.

The new government will moderate Erdogan and Davutoglu’s activist foreign policy and send positive signals to foreign investors that the Central Bank is independent.

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Mahir Zeynalov is a journalist with Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.