Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 July 2019

Erdogan will alienate Kurds with gamble

The Turkish president’s plan for a new election is all politics – at a crucial time
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to the crowds in Istanbul during an election rally (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to the crowds in Istanbul during an election rally (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Having received the wrong answer, Turkey’s president has decided to ask the question again. Over the weekend, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would call snap elections for November – even though fewer than three months have passed since the country’s last general election.

Mr Erdogan, of course, is playing politics. The last election was meant to return his ruling AKP to power with enough of a majority to push through constitutional changes. Instead, AKP won the vote, but without enough seats to form a majority government. Talks with the second largest party, CHP, broke down a few days ago.

Mr Erdogan, who as president is technically without party affiliation but in fact remains AKP’s most popular and powerful figure, appears to have no inclination for AKP to lead as a minority party. Hence, the snap elections.

But Mr Erdogan is also playing with fire. Turkey today is in a far more difficult political and security environment that it was even a few months ago. The collapse of the ceasefire with the PKK and the resumption of the Kurdish militant group’s war against the Turkish state means the country is now fighting on two fronts, both at home and abroad against ISIL.

In such an environment, a coalition government would probably have been a better option – and the right thing in terms of the democratic mandate. It would be the best option for stability at this crucial ­moment. The next best option, since AKP can’t form a government, is to allow the social democratic CHP to try to form a government themselves. But Mr Erdogan refuses to let them even try.

Neither possibility will satisfy Mr Erdogan, who seems determined to push for a second election and seek a majority. He may just get it – recent Turkish political history is littered with those who doubted Mr Erdogan’s legendary political capabilities. But the odds have got to be against him.

By seeking elections, he will be alienating not only all of those who voted for CHP, but also those who voted for smaller parties like the pro-Kurdish HDP. At a time when the PKK’s insurgency is spreading once again, Mr Erdogan could use the HDP to mobilise moderate Kurds and undercut support for the PKK. Instead, he is sidelining them.

Mr Erdogan’s career survived the loss of AKP’s parliamentary majority in June. It may not survive a second botched election. More importantly, Turkey cannot afford such instability.

Updated: August 22, 2015 04:00 AM