For the first time this century, Turkey is waking up the day after a general election without knowing who will form its next government.
In Sunday’s vote, the AK Party lost the parliamentary majority it had held since 2002, though for the fourth successive election the Islamist-rooted group won the most votes and seats.
The outcome may force Turks back to the ballot box for a repeat vote; plunge the country into the kind of coalition bargaining that was once a standard post-election feature; or keep Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in power but vulnerable to a legislature he no longer controls.
And, to make matters harder for investors who prefer political clarity, it may not be clear for weeks which of these scenarios will unfold, if any. The lira slid to a record low against the dollar in the early hours of Monday as the vote count neared its end.
The following are some of the possible permutations for the coming weeks.
Under Turkey’s constitution, the president can call another election if parties fail to form a government with a majority within 45 days of an election. It’s unclear whether the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would prefer to do so.
Erdogan led the AK Party and the country as prime minister for more than a decade before his elevation to the presidency last year. Sunday’s results are a setback for his goal of expanding the powers of his new post, which requires changes to the constitution that can only be made with a large majority in parliament.
Erdogan had flouted the traditional neutrality of the presidency to lend support to the AK Party’s campaign, in the hope that it could achieve such a majority. The strategy didn’t work, and there’s no guarantee it would work any better in a second election.
AK PARTY MINORITY GOVERNMENT
There are precedents in Turkey and other parliamentary democracies for governments that don’t command a majority in the legislature. A minority administration can continue by forming ad hoc alliances to win specific votes, or persuading other parties to agree not to topple it even if they don’t want to join it in a coalition.
The initial hurdle for an AK Party minority government would be to win a vote of confidence, when all the other parties have campaigned on promises of driving it out of office.
A minority administration is “the most likely scenario” though it would probably lead to another election within the next year-and-a-half or so, Credit Suisse said in a report late Sunday.
The second-biggest opposition party in parliament, the Nationalist Action Party, has some common ground with the AK Party: both groups attract voters from pious Muslim backgrounds and poorer parts of the country, and they share a suspicious stance toward Turkey’s Western allies.
The Nationalists were last in government as part of the coalition routed by the AK Party in 2002. Leader Devlet Bahceli poured cold water on the prospects of joining a coalition in his first post-election comments, saying that his party was ready to serve in opposition if others made a deal, and that a repeat election was the best outcome if they didn’t. Still, he didn’t explicitly rule it out.
Among many obstacles to an AK-Nationalist alliance, the biggest would be the Kurdish question. One of Erdogan and Davutoglu’s flagship policies is the pursuit of a breakthrough peace accord with armed Kurdish rebels, who have been fighting for autonomy for three decades. To the nationalists, any accommodation with Kurdish demands is tantamount to treason.
The election’s big winner was the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party or HDP, which won seats in parliament by passing the nationwide 10 percent threshold for the first time.
HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas ruled out any coalition with the AK Party late on Sunday while votes were still being counted. Still, the AK Party has been more accommodating to the Kurdish agenda than past Turkish governments or the main opposition groups.
The AK Party and the main opposition Republican People’s Party aren’t seen as likely to collaborate. Hostility between the Nationalists and Kurds rules out a tripartite coalition of the three opposition groups that won seats, even though they could theoretically muster enough seats to govern.