Minority Parties Look to Exclude Turkey’s Ruling Islamists from Legislative Coalition


As Turkey’s majority Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) scrambles to build a coalition government in the legislature, the largest minority party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has suggested pairing up with other minority parties to keep the AKP out of the ruling coalition entirely.

Such a coalition would put an exclamation point on what was already reported on as a sound defeat of the AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was seeking not only to keep the majority in Parliament but expand it to a supermajority in order to do away with the parliamentary system entirely, and replace it with a presidential system that would allot him more executive power.

The AKP is still the majority party in the legislature, having won 40% of the vote, and is seeking a partner to build a coalition among the three minority parties: the center-left CHP, the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the leftist Kurd-aligned Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The MHP is considered the likeliest taker in that coalition bid, but complicating negotiations is a move by the MHP to form a coalition with the other minority parties.

“If we want to present a will in line with society’s expectations and which doesn’t ignore them, then we are to form a government in line with the expectations of the 60 percent group,” said MHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in a speech Monday, implying that the 40% party, the AKP, should not be in the ruling majority. “If we embrace all segments of society and deliver warm messages, then we will also take very important steps for the representation of peace in the country. After the election, a balance of 40 percent and 60 percent has emerged, a balance which has been presented by society,” he added.

Kılıçdaroğlu also made clear that he was not calling for a snap election to resolve the creation of a government, as Erdogan has deemed “inevitable” if no two parties can form a majority ruling coalition within the next 45 days.

The CHP is facing a significant challenge in proposing a minority coalition, as the Kurdish HDP and nationalist MHP are squarely at odds ideologically, and the MHP has already permanently ruled out any coalition with the HDP. MHP officials have accused the HDP of being a front group for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist group in Turkey and the United States. The HDP is not exclusively Kurdish, however, and made inroads with voters by launching a large number of female candidates, Turkey’s first gay candidate, and sending two Christians to the legislature.

Both the MHP and the HDP have called for the center-left CHP to form a coalition with the ruling AKP. The CHP has issued a number of demands of the AKP in order of this to be possible, though it is not believed that Erdogan’s party would accept them. On this list is a demand of a fully free press and complete freedom of speech for Turks– a sticking point for a President who routinely has private citizens arrested for “insulting” him on social media. The MHP has made similar demands on the AKP in the courtship process underway, as the AKP seeks a ruling partner.

The HDP has expressed interest in the CHP’s minority coalition idea. “We have stated that our door is open to all appointment requests that might come in the future process,” said HDP’s co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ in response to the CHP suggestion. “The society in Turkey wants to see a government structure in line with pluralism. We are open to all meetings in regards to forming government and a coalition.”