Turkey, AKP and Gloomy Election Scenarios

Turkey, AKP and Gloomy Election ScenariosTurkey, AKP and Gloomy Election Scenarios

There have been no uncertainties at all since the November 2002 national election about which party would come to power in Turkey.

It has always been the current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that has won all the national and local elections since 2002, and its long-time prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was chosen as president in the first-ever direct national vote in August last year instead of being elected by parliament. However, the AKP is looking at losses in the general election to be held on June 7, a first in 13 years, Lale Kemal opined in Today’s Zaman.

Some polling companies have been speculating over the possibility of a coalition – whether it is an AKP-led coalition government or a government without the AKP – emerging from this Sunday’s national election.

According to other polls conducted recently, the AKP is on a knife’s edge as to whether it will be able to win the 276 seats necessary to form a single-party government, while some others close to the government believe the AKP will win the election comfortably enough to return to power alone.

Yet, it is also a possibility that the AKP may create a big surprise and return to power with a clear majority of 330 seats or more, paving the way for them to make the changes to the Constitution to replace the current parliamentary system of governance with an executive presidency.

 game changer

A transition to a presidential system is a nightmare scenario for many Turks due to heightened fears that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will intensify his already-authoritarian tendencies.

In all the above-mentioned election outcome scenarios, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) will be a game changer. This is because if the HDP cannot surpass the 10 percent election threshold, the AKP will most likely be guaranteed the clear majority in parliament needed to make changes to the constitution and introduce a presidential system.

If, however, the HDP surpasses the 10 percent threshold – according to Konda’s latest poll it has a good chance of clearing the 10 percent hurdle on Sunday – the AKP may not even win enough seats to form a single-party government, let alone win a clear majority and change the constitution.

At this point, however, the biggest concern among opposition parties and other non-AKP supporters alike is the possibility that the ruling party will manipulate Sunday’s vote to ensure its victory.

Hence, political parties and civil society organizations have taken steps to prevent election fraud, while observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have doubled their numbers to monitor the national election amid election rigging allegations.

 Fear of Investigation

There is the assumption that the AKP and Erdogan will not accept defeat out of the fear that a high-profile corruption and bribery investigation implicating Erdogan and some of his family members will be opened, as pledged by all the opposition parties that are highly likely to return to parliament after the election.

In addition, the AKP allegedly fears that hundreds of police officers, prosecutors, judges, bureaucrats as well as many critical journalists facing investigations over vague charges leveled by the government-controlled judiciary will take all those responsible to court if it fails to form a single-party government after the election.

Hence, Erdogan and his AKP government are believed to be resorting to election fraud to change the election results in their favor.

The fact that the fraud allegations brought forward by the opposition were largely ignored by the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) has raised doubts that the YSK will rule fairly, even if the AKP is accused of manipulating Sunday’s voting.

If the fear of election fraud turns out to be true following the Sunday voting, this may trigger public outrage, bringing people out onto the streets for massive protests, leading to a chaotic atmosphere in a country that has already been deeply polarized.

According to another scenario under which we assume that fraud is understood not to have taken place and the AKP wins the election to form a single-party government, public suspicion of the ruling party and Erdogan, as well as the judiciary, will not go away, raising serious questions over the legitimacy of the AKP rule.

In the meantime, if the HDP fails, for instance, to surpass the election threshold of 10 percent with, let’s say, 9.5 percent of the vote, a resumption of unrest mainly in the Kurdish-dominated southeast may become inevitable.

This will further risk the already-fragile peace process initiated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to end the three-decade-long armed uprising through non-violent means.

 investors alarmed

Some argue that Turkey’s politics make it vulnerable. Viktor Szabo of Aberdeen Asset Management describes recent developments in Turkey as a “drift towards an autocratic state”. He writes: “The president’s mere attempt to seek more power for himself is alarming investors who were already spooked by his government’s persistent failings,” BBC said.

President Erdogan has certainly expressed some unorthodox views on economic policy. He has suggested that higher interest rates cause higher inflation. He has also described the defense of higher rates as treason.

That has not gone down well with international investors. The inflation theory is the reverse of what they all believe and they became very wary about what they see as political pressure on the central bank to cut rates. Viktor Szabo says President Erdogan has launched “several brazen and bizarre attacks on the central bank”.

He describes the president’s agenda as an attempt to “effectively ‘Putinise’ Turkey by giving himself and his party more power. [It] is as dangerous economically as it is democratically.”