Two Months Past the Elections, Turkey Still Does Not Have a New Government

 Anti-Government Protest, Ankara, Turkey: Photo by Kerem

Anti-Government Protest, Ankara, Turkey: Photo by Kerem

ANKARA, Turkey - On June 7, 2015 Turkey went through general elections for a new government. The ruling party, Justice and Development Party (AKP), main opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and People’s Democratic Party (HDP) passed the10 percent electoral threshold, and got into the parliament, The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM).

Despite receiving the highest percentage of vote, unlike the previous elections, AKP was not able to reach the number of parliament members to form a government alone and forced to form a coalition with one of the opposing parties.

“‘No parties can form a government alone’ means political parties will come together and form a coalition. If no parties were authorized [by the people] to form a government alone, there is nothing more proper than having negotiations with other parties,” said Ahmet Davutoglu, chairman of AKP at the press conference following his final meeting with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of CHP on August 13, 2015.

Following the elections, prime minister and chairman of AKP, Ahmet Davutoglu was appointed to form the coalition on July 9, 2015 by the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ahmet Davutoglu and his government would also continue to hold a temporary government until a new coalition is formed. Having 40 business days to form a government, Davutoglu and his team met leaders of all three parties at TBMM to start negotiations for a coalition government. Initially turned down by both MHP and HDP, AKP focused on negotiations with CHP. Both parties formed commissions to discuss main expectations from a new government that could be formed by both parties.

After the commissions met several times, a total hours of almost 35, to come to an agreement, the leaders of both parties Ahmet Davutoglu and Kemal Kilicdaroglu met on August 10, 2015 to finalize the negotiations. Not having come to terms, the two leaders scheduled to meet again on August 13, 2015.

The two leaders met in the afternoon of August 13, at Ankara Palas, a historical building used as an official state guest house in the capital to finalize the negotiations. Following long, tedious and cautiously crafted negotiations, most people were expecting an agreement and the announcement of the new government with the coalition of AKP and CHP, two distinct voices in the parliament.

Contrary to expectations, the final meeting did not end with an agreement. Both leaders expressed in separate press conferences that the parties were not able to some to terms to set a coalition government.

Mr. Davutoglu said despite both parties had very hopeful approach to form the government, and everyone did what they were supposed to do, each party’s expectations for the country’s future did not come to a consensus to work together.

“In my speech at AKP headquarters’ balcony on June 7th night, I had expressed that we will not let this country not have a government, we will not give a chance to those who want create a chaos or crisis, and we will take any necessary measures as a party that has the strength to govern the country any time. I am sure anyone who voted for us or not can see that we have been doing whatever is necessary for the responsibility we have taken on this issue for the past two months,” Mr. Davutoglu said.

“Within the frame of this work, I met the leaders of all the parties in the parliamentary. As a result of those meetings, in the initial phase, we decided to continue negotiations with CHP while MHP only expressed their willingness for latter meetings. I was very happy to find out we had more terms that we agreed than we had discuss. However, we also had great divergence on some issues especially foreign policy and education,” he continued. “We came to a conclusion that we should continue our dialogs within a mutual understanding, but we did not have the basis to form a coalition.”

Following Mr. Davutoglu, Mr. Kilictaroglu said CHP has prepared its basic principles to form a coalition with 14 items on June 15, 2015 and shared them with public following the elections. He said, he expressed Mr. Davutoglu that CHP thinks a well grounded and powerful coalition formed for a long term would be best for country’s need. On the contrary, Davutoglu offered a short term government or asked for support for a minority government as a second option.

“We have not received a suggestion for a coalition so far,” he said. “We were offered to form a government for a new election within three months. This did not match our central executive board’s decision of long term government. Personally, when we talk about national will, we need to understand what our people expected us.”

“If the national will has divided the votes among the political parties, and did not allow one party form a government alone, it is the leaders’ responsibility to form a coalition government as a response to national will of the country. If you say, I cannot form a coalition; I will go for a re-election, how can you talk about respecting the national will? We should have given a chance to this. I think, Turkey has missed a historical opportunity.”

Both leaders expressed there was no option for pessimism for Turkey. Davutoglu said there were still options such as forming a coalition with MHP, although an early election was prominently standing out. Kilicdaroglu said Turkey has the capacity to get over its problems.

Over two months after the elections, a government not being formed, Turkey’s people are again at the edge of making a choice of who should govern the country.

Contributing Journalist: @ElvanKatmer
LinkedIn: Elvan Katmer

Portrait of a Suicide Bomber, DNA Identifies Turkey ISIS Terrorist who Killed 32 People

 remains of suicide bomber, kabul, afghanistan, photo by us air force tech sergeant brenda nipper

remains of suicide bomber, kabul, afghanistan, photo by us air force tech sergeant brenda nipper

SURUC, Turkey - The recent suicide bombing which occurred in the town of Suruc was a highly publicized terrorist act, one of the worst perpetrated in this predominantly Muslim country.  Israel has long been victimized by suicide bombers, but now this killing strategy is unfortunately a worldwide phenomenon and increasingly prevalent in the Middle East, Eurasia, and Africa.

No nation is immune from this type of terrorism, even in Europe which has in recent years witnessed devastating attacks in London, France, Spain, and Norway. The United States has suffered major attacks as well, including the infamous Sept. 11th attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by Al Qaeda operatives killing 2,996 and injuring more than 6,000. The latest such attack occurred in Boston in 2013 in which 3 people were killed and 264 injured during a marathon on April 15th of that year.

There is no set demographic for the profile of the terrorists who have been young and old, men and women, elderly and young people, but the similarity exists in that each has been radicalized and dispatched to wreak havoc and in the process kill themselves and many innocents.

In Turkey a 20-year-old university student named Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, was identified as the suicide bomber through DNA tests. Alagoz's attack was even more disconcerting because of the fact that he took the lives of 32 people who were roughly his same age.

According to the New York Times, "The investigation is ongoing, but we have evidence that the suspect was linked to Daesh" the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol and using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL."

Authorities say that the suspect, who had been on foot, blended into the crowd which enabled him to inflict the maximum damage once he blew himself up, leaving debris and carnage in his wake. Though there isn't clear evidence for the motive of this attack; it is surmised that it was some kind of retaliation by ISIS because of the recent victory of Kurdish military forces in driving out the militants from the town of Kobani which is directly across the border in Syria.

The young people killed were activists who were presenting speeches, holding a news conference, and gathering supplies and donations to help rebuild the lives of Syrian Kurds. Witnesses said that the bomber detonated himself in the Amara Cultural Centre while attendees were engaged in humanitarian efforts to relieve the suffering of the citizens of Kobani, Syria where Kurdish fighters in January of this year successfully drove out Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

In effect, Alagoz killed young people who sought peace and were attempting to provide much needed aid to people who had been tyrannized by ISIS, and perhaps in this respect they thought they had achieved their objective, but such is not the case, as the dead will be mourned, but their mission will not be silenced nor their efforts in vain.

Contributing Journalist: @toritorinicole

Turkey: Top 5 Reasons for the AK PARTİ Failure

 akp lawmakers fight in parliament, photo ap burhan ozbilliicj

akp lawmakers fight in parliament, photo ap burhan ozbilliicj

ANKARA, Turkey - In the previous analysis of the recent elections in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s was largely to blame for the failure of the AK PARTİ or AKP party to maintain its majority control of parliament.  There have been many elements affecting Turkey's populace deciding to vote along alternate party lines, but here are five that most heavily shaped the parliament in the Great National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM).

1. Erdoğan Factor

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is unarguably one of the most charismatic and authoritarian figures in all of Turkish political history. Being in politics since his youth, Erdoğan was able to win the hearts and minds of millions in the 2002 elections, although he was originally politically banned as a result of his conviction within the scope of what was known in Turkey as “Thought Crimes.” In reality, his conviction sparked off more support for Erdoğan as people thought he was banned unjustly. In addition to his outstanding political charisma, Erdoğan’s powerful speeches and rigid attitude also won general approval. This general approval continued to increase as the government, under Erdoğan’s rule, ran successful economical policies which increased people’s level of welfare.

After being elected as a president in August 2014, Erdoğan’s position had become the most highly ranked - above all political parties. He was neither a prime minister nor a chairperson of AKP anymore. Erdoğan resigned from his positions in the AKP as well as the government, and handed over his reins to one of his closest allies in his party, Ahmet Davutoglu, to take over his previous position. Consequently, public’s support of AKP decreased in the June 7th elections without Erdoğan’s leadership.

2. The 2013 Corruption Scandal and Graft Probe Allegations

On December 17, 2013, Istanbul Security Directory’s Financial Crimes and Battle against Criminal Incomes Department detained 47 people within a criminal investigation of bribery with the government officials. The investigation involved several key people in Turkish Government for an investigation on a millions of dollars of corruption. An arrest warrant was issued for 30 people by the public prosecutor on December 25, 2015, but the Istanbul Directorate of Security refused to make the arrests. Most people involved in the list of detainees and arrest warrant had connections with AKP or government officials, including the sons of three ministers. The investigation blamed several ministers for being involved in the bribery scandal.

Simultaneously, phone tapes of Mr. Erdoğan, cabinet members and several businessman related to investigation were leaked through YouTube. It turned out the investigation was top secret in a way that none of the officials in the government were not informed, including the prime minister of the time, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, minister of interior, other cabinet members and president the time, Abdullah Gul.

Four of the ministers resigned from their positions following the allegations; however, none of them appeared on court thanks to their parliamentary immunity.

Erdoğan and other government officials claimed the allegations were conspiracy against Turkish government to stop it from performing its duties, and overthrow the government. Erdoğan blamed Fetullah Gulen, a cleric, who used to be a close ally to Mr. Erdoğan, residing in the U.S.A. for forming a parallel state within Turkey. The fact that all the officers involved in the investigation were members of Hizmet movement lead by Fetullah Gulen strengthened Erdoğan’s claims. All of the police officers, prosecutors, and other officials involved in the investigation were suspended or relocated by the government following the detaining. Government officials claimed all the phone tapes and other proofs of the investigation were built-up recordings and paperwork and did not reflect reality and did not match with the other parts of the investigation itself.

Turkey went through local authority general elections following those investigations on March 30, 2014, only about three months after the graft probe. Also, Mr. Erdoğan ran for presidential elections on August 2014. AKP received 42 percent of the vote in local elections and Erdoğan received 52 percent of the vote in presidential elections, which also showed people supported the government and Mr. Erdoğan in the graft probe allegations.

Although AKP declared a victory at the local elections, and Mr. Erdoğan won the presidential elections in the first round, people were still not convinced about the case being closed. Turkey’s people wanted transparency in graft probe investigations as well as the following parallel state investigations. People expected clear proofs about the allegations’ being fabrications and attempts to dysfunction the government. Since the local elections in 2014, AKP government was expected to answer the questions raised in people’s minds. It has been over a year since the local elections, yet government’s accomplishments were limited in relocations and suspensions of the officials involved in the graft probe.

3. People’s Democratic Party (HDP)’s raise

AKP government has attempted many reforms to increase the level of welfare in south eastern part of Turkey where most of the Kurdish population resided. The government also passed laws entitling new rights for the people of the region as well as other ethnic groups living in Turkey. Those included TRT (Turkish Radio and Television, by government) started broadcasting in Kurdish in one of its channels; the national oath, which praised being Turkish, was removed from school system. All these reforms aimed to dysfunction Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist organization in the region since 1984, blamed for over 40,000 Turkish citizens’ killings in its terrorist attacks. The Turkish government led by AKP organized these reforms under a package called democratic initiative process.

Since the last general elections, PKK ceased its activities in Turkey, and moved its armed forces to north of Syria and Iraq. In Turkey, a new party, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), was established in 2008 as a part of democratic initiative process, and contested in elections in 2011 independently to bypass the 10 percent electoral threshold. Following the elections HDP was established in August 2012 following the People’s Democratic Congress. After the congress, BDP joined HDP prior to June 7, 2015 elections. HDP contested in June 7th elections as a party and contrary to several polls prior to election date, received 13 percent of the vote passing the 10 percent electoral threshold and won 80 seats in the parliament. Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s support for HDP against AKP in the areas where CHP does not have much support as well as HDP’s peaceful and democratic campaign received people’s approval, and it lead to a swift increase in HDP’s vote. Consequently, a historically high percentage of votes found representation in the parliament, and AKP could not reach the number of the seats required to form a government alone.

4. AKP’s Presidential System Promise and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

AKP’s electoral agenda included many promises for what it wanted to do if it can form the government alone; however, it also included a revolutionary item that would change the Turkey’s democracy remarkably. AKP promised to amend the constitution, and change the parliamentary system into presidential system. It claimed that the current system did not allow the government to function efficiently, and suggested amendment of constitution and presidential system as the solution.

Although many people agree that the Turkish constitution needs to be revolutionized, and are not fundamentally against the presidential system, both the tone of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly strong language, and his power expectancy deterred people from supporting AKP, in terms of reforms, towards presidential system.

In his initial years of rule, Erdoğan’s rowdy style was somehow sympathetic to Turkish people. His authoritative attitude has been accepted and praised by his fellows as well as the public, as Turkey had been going through severe turbulence due to the lack of authority in government. However, Erdoğan’s tone increasingly became harsher and harsher both towards Turkey’s people (who criticizes him) as well as the international community.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition party- Republican People’s Party- called Erdoğan a dictator on several different occasions.

According to Today’s Zaman, a newspaper published in English in Turkey, in one of those occasions Mr. Kilicdaroglu said Erdoğan fits the scholarly description of a dictator referring to the book “The Psychology of Dictatorship” by Fathali Moghaddam, a Georgetown University academic in his speech at the CHP group meeting.

“Four criteria are used to describe a dictatorship: whether citizens can speak their minds or protest freely in city squares, whether there are fair elections in a country, whether minority rights are protected and whether there is judicial independence. Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey fails on all four counts,” he said.

Many international media outlets associated Erdoğan with becoming “the new Sultan of Turkey” in their headlines. Since he first came to power in 2002, Mr. Erdoğan’s attitude has always been somewhat harsh to any of his opponents, yet Turkey’s people did not want to take his increasingly heavy language anymore. A presidential system could potentially fulfill the titles Mr. Kilicdaroglu and international media outlets placed upon Erdoğan, even if this has not been his intention.

5. Erdoğan’s Presidential Role

After being elected as a president in 2014, Mr. Erdoğan’s new position required him to keep the same distance to all political parties as well as bureaucracy. Yet, soon after he took over the president’s office, he said he will continue to be in politics actively, unlike his predecessors in this position.

“I have never been away from the fields. I have come to the presidency from the field. Where am I supposed to be if I am not going to be in the field? If anyone is expecting me to seclude myself in Ankara, they will have to wait a lot more,” he said. “I will not be a president sitting in his office, signing documents.”

Although legally Erdoğan was not supposed to be a part of AKP anymore, he continued to make propaganda on behalf of AKP during the election campaign process. He was giving speeches, and talking to the public on air almost every day through mass opening ceremonies, TV programs, meetings and various events using the presidential budget. Erdoğan asked for support for AKP by referring to the key items in its agenda: amendment of the constitution, and presidential system, which make him look like he was desperately looking to take over all the power to himself.

As a president, Mr. Erdoğan was expected to keep the same distance to all political parties; yet his misuse of his authority on behalf of AKP was not appreciated by Turkey’s people. As a consequence, AKP did not receive enough votes and seats in the national assembly to form the government alone and turn its words into action, although Ahmet Davutoglu and his team won the elections.

Contributing Journalist: @ElvanKatmer
LinkedIn: Elvan Katmer

Citizens of Turkey Put a Halt to Erdoğan’s Ascent

president-recep-tayyip-erdogan-turkey-photo-reuters_stringer.jpg

ANKARA, Turkey - For the past 13 years, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party, also known as "JDP or AK in English and AK PARTİ or AKP" party had always won a majority in every Turkish election.

Erdoğan initially won a historical victory in the 2002 elections and became the AKP’s chairperson.

The key elements that contributed to the AKP’s victory were the economic depression which plagued Turkey, the failures of predecessor coalition governments, as well as a necessary 10 percent electoral threshold which Turkish political parties have to pass to have the floor at The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM).

Erdoğan’s AKP won 363 of 550 seats in the National Assembly where 45 percent of the popular vote was not reflected in the National Assembly because of the electoral threshold.

However, in the most recent elections held on 7 June 2015 the AKP’s iron clad reign of power seems to have faltered despite the fact that they won 40 percent of the votes, the AKP was unable to reach the number of Parliament Members (MP) required to form the ruling government which has forced them to form a coalition with one of its rivals.

Since its establishment, and its first victory in 2002, AKP earned the trust of many people from varying backgrounds who had previously either supported AKP or another party such as the People's Democratic Party (HDP). Erdoğan’s first speech after his first victory also won a general approval from almost everyone in the country as well as his speech after the second general election he won.

“You voted for the democracy to function more efficiently. You voted for a transition into a democracy from a democracy which could not govern. It is your decision. You carried out the principle, like Ataturk said, ‘Sovereignty unconditionally belongs to the nation’,” he said on his speech after November 3, 2002 general election.

Erdoğan emphasized unity of Turkey’s people in his speech after the general election on 23 July 2007 election which continued to receive approval from all parties.

“I am calling out to the people who did not vote for my party. I understand the message you gave us in your votes. Please feel comfortable. Your vote is important to us no matter who you voted for. Please be at ease; we will continue to protect our nation’s consignment up to the end like we always did,” he said.

In the years following the 3 November 2002 election, AKP and Erdoğan have won all parliamentary elections and formed the government singly, in addition to general local elections and his presidential run until this past 7 June 2015 election cycle.

Compared to prior elections, the June 7th parliamentary elections turned out to be more democratic as more than 95 percent of the votes were reflected to the Great National Assembly of Turkey. A new party, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) contested in the election as a party unlike its predecessor, Peace and Democracy party (BDP) did in the previous elections in where it participated independently to bypass the 10 percent electoral threshold. Contrary to several pro-government polls, HDP fared way better than expected and won 80 seats with 13 percent of the vote, which also collapsed AKP’s plans for continuing to form and run the government alone.

An image showing the pool results from 4 different poll companies prior to June 7th election. Only one of those polls showed HDP passing the electoral threshold.

AKP Table
AKP Table

AKP lost the support it had constantly received from Turkey’s people for 13 years in June 7th election. In addition to HDP’s swift popularity in Turkey, AKP also lost support because Mr. Erdoğan was no longer the chairman of the party since being elected as president. Additionally, the corruption investigations that were launched in December of 2013, which implicated many government officials as well as businessman with close ties to AKP which many citizens felt were improperly concluded by government. Mr. Erdoğan and his team blamed Fetullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric leading the Hizmet Movement, for forming a parallel state within Turkish government.

He also blamed Mr. Gulen for an attempt to overthrow the government by fomenting conspiracies which included in their opinion false allegations of corruption by close supporters and allies of the AKP. Mr. Erdoğan’s unusual political stand after being elected as a president is another key factor in AKP’s marginal victory. Although, as president he was mandated to remain impartial regarding the political parties that comprise the parliament, it has been problematic because he hascontinued to covertly and sometimes overtly support AKP.

Critics claim that Erdoğan support for AKP has come to a point where he has begun to act more like a member of AKP than the president of Turkey. Voters indicated that the AKP’s post-electoral agenda and Mr. Erdoğan’s desire to amass a power base that would effectively make him impervious to usurpation were the primary reasons why they switched their support to other parties.

The parliamentary system in Turkey requires political parties to form a single government with majority, or in coalition with another party within 45 days after any election. Following the June election neither the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), or Democratic People’s Party (HDP) wanted to form a coalition with the AKP.

Ideologically, none of the parties share an affinity for each other; however the leader of the MHPmade it clear that in addition to the AKP, they will not be involved in a coalition with HDP as well. Without AKP, the only option is a minority government, which could not last long in Turkey’s dynamics government. Despite their initial position, in the intervening days following their pronouncement, party leaders have softened their language and started preparing protocols for possible coalitions.

Mr. Erdoğan expressed in an earlier meeting that he would meet the leaders of all political parties prior to designating one for the Prime Minister position.

“First, I will assign the chairman of the party which received the highest vote. If he cannot form the coalition, I will assign the chairman of the party which received the second highest vote,” he said. With only days left to form a government, little has been accomplished in TBMM. An early election, or in Mr. Erdoğan’s words, a re-election is a close option, not a surprise.

CONTRIBUTING JOURNALIST: @ElvanKatmer
LINKEDIN: Elvan Katmer