After high-stakes talks in Turkey between the AK Party and the Republican Party (CHP) broke down last night, the country appears to be headed for its second set of elections this year. The New York Times reports:
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said after the talks ended on Thursday that, while all chances for a coalition agreement had not been exhausted, “early elections are a strong possibility, the only possibility, even.”The deadline for coalition talks is Aug. 23, so theoretically there is still time for a coalition to emerge, possibly matching Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist party — the Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P. — with a small, far-right nationalist bloc. But Mr. Davutoglu’s remarks on Thursday indicated that that was unlikely […]Reflecting the deep disagreements, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the C.H.P., said Thursday that the two sides had never had meaningful discussions about a partnership, despite long hours in meetings. He said all Mr. Davutoglu had offered was a short-term arrangement that would lead to early elections.
The AKP, and particularly President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, may regard early elections as a win-win proposition. On the one hand, the party may be gambling that the war in Syria, combined with the internal anti-Kurdish crackdown and the weakness of a caretaker government, will lead to a demand for a strong new government, presumably one that’s majority-AKP. (The ongoing crackdown against the Kurds may also simply repress enough opposition to help the party get over the 50 percent threshold). On the other hand, as the Wall Street Journal points out, the President has outsized influence in the Turkish system in between elections: Erdogan, with his murky authoritarian aspirations and both the war and the internal crisis brewing, may be drawn to an opportunity to create mischief.
But the headwinds the AKP faces are real, including a still-faltering economy: The lira fell to a record low against the dollar after coalition talks broke down. As Stephen A. Cook wrote in these pages after the June elections, Turkey may simply be entering one of the periodic bouts of political instability that have historically beset the country. With elections now looming again, political uncertainty will likely, at the very least, be the rule for about the next few months.