A month after the Turkish general election on June 7, which resulted in a “hung” parliament with no political party securing an absolute majority, the formation of a coalition government has run into difficulty. Many permutations and combinations have come into the consideration zone and duly exited for one reason or another.
Now comes a breath of fresh wind with the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) and the main regional party of the Kurdish population People’s Democratic Party (HDP) signaling that there could be a co-habitation involving them in a new coalition government.
The co-chair of the HDP, Figen Yuksekdag put it nicely when she said, “During the government formation process, if playing a role – whether direct or indirect – falls on our shoulders, we wouldn’t hesitate to fulfill this duty … Our only frontier (sic) is our principles and program. Those are peace, democracy and justice.”
The AKP leader who headed the last government as prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu has since held out an olive branch to the HDP that his party would be open to continuing with the Kurdish peace process that it had initiated through the past 4-5 years. Put differently, the AKP is willing to reach a political accommodation with the HDP.
Clearly, a window of opportunity opens for the AKP and the HDP to come together with a combination that commands majority support in the new parliament.
But the AKP leadership should not view this as matter of expediency. Rising to the occasion at this point in time in Turkey’s domestic and external environment expects from the political class an “out-of-the-box” thinking.
Indeed, Turkey faces several challenges today and some are assuming criticality, and it is in such moments that a mature political leadership is expected to be far-sighted. What Turkey needs today is a grand coalition between the AKP and the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) with HDP as part of the government or as a junior partner extending support from the outside.
The political constituencies that these three parties represent do not overlap. All indications are that the CHP, which is also at a political crossroads, may be open to working with the AKP, notwithstanding the bitter confrontations between the two for the past decade.
In political terms, an AKP-CHP coalition with HDP will be something like the grand coalition in modern Germany involving the Christian Democrats with the Bavarian Socialist Union and the Social Democrats.
It will help Turkey heal the wounds created by the competitive politics of the past few years. The CHP is open to accommodating the Kurdish aspirations and will not block the AKP’s constructive moves in this direction. The HDP’s inclusion would give the Kurdish population a sense of participation in the democratic process in a way that has not been possible in all of Turkey’s history.
Again, the AKP government’s foreign policies have been a disaster. Turkey finds itself in a cul-de-sac today in regional politics – the international community sees Turkey as aiding and abetting the extremist Islamists in Syria; the crisis in Syria with no end in view has created for Turkey a massive refugee problem; Turkey’s relations with the United States, Europe, Russia, China, Egypt, Israel, Syria and Iraq are in difficulty.
The spectre that haunts Turkey on the foreign-policy arena is one of isolation. This is where a CHP foreign minister in an AKP-led coalition government can help open a new page. The CHP has argued for Turkey’s return to the reform program attuned to its search for EU membership, normalization of relations with Israel, a new start in Turkish-Egyptian relations and an overall return to the “de-ideologized” middle ground in foreign policy that made Turkey traditionally a “pivotal state” or regional hub in the politics of many surrounding regions ranging from the Balkans to the Black Sea and the Caucasus to the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East and the Maghreb.
Meanwhile, the US-Iranian engagement has triggered a big realignment in regional politics. Turkey needs to make adjustments and there are already some incipient signs of change in Turkish foreign policies, especially in a drift away from the distractions of the Arab-Spring politics to a resumption of the tryst with Europe, as the prominent editor Murat Yetkin noted last week. Turkey flourishes when there is peace at home and peace abroad, as Ataturk’s immortal words put it.
The onus is on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is the monarch of all he surveys. His legacy is already substantial in democratizing the Turkish state, steering the economy to unprecedented levels of prosperity, easing tensions with arch-rival Greece and showing willingness to open a serious dialogue on Cyprus as well as in bravely acknowledging that Turkey has a “Kurdish problem” and it needs a political settlement through discussion and consensus.
But the legacy remains incomplete and Erdogan’s politics has meanwhile got mired in controversies. The unfinished business needs attention for the legacy to be enduring and historic.
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