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Turkey's AKP in search of allies

Seda SerdarNovember 3, 2015

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants a new constitution. To achieve this, his party desperately needs the support of the opposition. DW's Seda Serdar expects new political games in Turkey.

Turkish President Erdogan greeting his supporters (Photo: EPA)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Bozoglu

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems one step closer to his biggest goal: A presidential system giving him more power to rule the country as he wishes. Affiliates of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) compare this to the American presidential system. However, they seem to forget the checks and balances in the USA: The system does not allow a one-man show. A country needs a strong judiciary system and a clear separation of powers.

But this has not been the case in Turkey for a long time. So far, there is no indication that the next four years will be any different. In other words, voters who were against the AKP will be facing times of struggle.

AKP's options

To change the constitution and become the president he desires to be, Erdogan and his AKP need support. The current 317 seats are not enough to secure this change. So two scenarios come into play.

In the first one, the AKP will continue to play the nationalist card and win over more nationalists, moving the country along a right-wing path. This would also mean continuing attacks on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and minimizing their military capacities. With potential support from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the AKP could secure the necessary quota of 330 votes in parliament to put the constitutional changes to a referendum. Following his party's victory on November 1, Erdogan once again has faith in his people.

Seda Serdar from DW's Turkish department (Photo: DW)
DW's Seda Serdar

Another scenario is a rapprochement with the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and a relaunch of the peace process with the Kurds that has been on hold since the summer. Now that the elections are over, the AKP will no longer benefit from instability or a security deficit - and the HDP can come back into the picture as a potential partner, rather than a foe. After all that has been said and done, there still seems to be hope for the two parties to work together. Even though the HDP is still not eager to endorse a presidential system, it is willing to talk about it if decentralization is also on the table. If the AKP and the HDP were to come back to some kind of agreement, their 317 and 59 seats respectively would be more than enough to change the constitution, which requires a total of 367 votes in parliament. In this case, there would be no need for a referendum.

Who cares about democratic deficits?

However, Turkey is not an isolated country. On the contrary, it is a hot spot for the world's pressing problems such as the refugee crises, terrorism and instability. The fight against the Islamic State (IS) will continue for years - and Ankara has finally recognized this.

At the same time, the Kurdish factor in this fight continues to be a delicate issue for Turkey. It is Ankara's state policy not to tolerate a Kurdish state on its Syrian border. The United States sees Kurdish support as a necessity in the fight against IS, but the country is also trying not to upset Erdogan while it uses military air bases in Turkey. This is why the US is subtle when it comes to criticizing the growing democracy deficit in the country.

Europe is not much different. EU countries - and especially Germany - are so worried about the refugee influx that they have tossed away European values and are only thinking of ways to make Erdogan happy. The Turkish president wishes to play the refugee card to his advantage and force the EU not only to pitch in financially, but also to push forward Turkey's staggered EU accession process.

Erdogan was disappointed that European media outlets did not rush to praise the AKP's success and pointed out what EU leaders chose to ignore. It seems that both the US and the EU will focus on prioritizing their own concerns rather than standing up for common values, without which Turkey will no longer be the Western ally they are so used to depending on.

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