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Beware of the disaster scenario in elections

Turkey is one of the rare countries where the announcement of a snap election is jubilated by investors. If the…

Beware of the disaster scenario in elections

Turkey is one of the rare countries where the announcement of a snap election is jubilated by investors. If the country was run by a shaky coalition or the hope was that the “bastards will be run out of town,” the reaction would have been perfectly understandable. No, sir, even though in comments to the financial press most investors express disappointment with AKP’s performance, they are betting that Erdogan and the fledgling AKP-MHP (nationalist) alliance will return to power. They may be wrong. A more probable scenario envisions Ankara embroiled in infighting and bureaucratic paralysis.

 

Current polls reveal slim lead for Erdogan, AKP-MHP

 

Yours Truly avidly collects poll information from public sources. While the whimsical nature of the Turkish voter induces a very large margin of error to any individual poll, the average taken over a reasonable period of time, say a month, usually reflect an accurate picture of the nation’s mood. According to my humble calculations, as it stands AKP-MHP have a slim majority of 53%, while Erdogan’s approval rating is firmly below 50%. That may be construed as bad news for his presidential ambitions, but it is not so. No other candidate comes even close..

Except….if former president and brother-in-arms of Erdogan, Mr. Abdullah Gul were to contest the race, the result could change radically. Polls assign anywhere from 5% to 48% approval rating to Gul, but what matters is how AKP-MHP thinks. Repeated pleas and even veiled threats from both headquarters to Gul’s direction not to get involved suggest that the duo is running scared, literally.

I don’t know if Gul would run, so far he has been as shy as a church mouse, but there is a bigger threat awaiting AKP-MHP. As we speak, three opposition parties Good Party (center-right, nationalist), SP (Islamist), and CHP are negotiating on a similar alliance which would bolster their seats per votes and more importantly carry tiny SP into the parliament. SP, the home of deceased Islamist legend Prof Necmettin Erbakan garners less than 1%  of the national vote, but according to veteran survey hands, its true potential is 5%, all coming from AKP.

You do the math. 53 minus 5 is 48, which means the opposition block would have a majority in the Grand Assembly, because in the scenario of two opposing alliances, Turkey’s weirdly non-linear electoral system which grants a huge advantage to the front-runner becomes proportional.

I can go on arguing that AKP-MHP will lose ground in the coming days because this election will be about the economy and up to 50% of the electorate is very angry about AKP’s poor stewardship, but let’s skip that. It is best to focus on what might happen if Erdogan were to remain in his Presidential Palace facing a hostile majority in the Grand Assembly.

 

Grand Assembly still has sharp teeth

One of the objectives of the presidential referendum was to defang the Grand Assembly,  to concentrate all power in the hands of Erdogan. This effort succeeded only half way because of poor statute writing skills, which is unfortunately the hallmark of AKP’s “constitutional scholars”.

In theory, the president forms a Cabinet from non-parliament members and governs the country by executive decree, period. It takes a two-third majority of the parliament to override his decrees. Good, but not good enough. There is nothing in the constitution which says the parliament can’t pass legislation about the same topic with countervailing impact.

Let’s give a very simple example. Erdogan may promulgate a decree reducing the import tax on corn to 0 percent. The next day the parliament could pass legislation banning changes to import taxes pending ratification by a majority. Such cases will go to the Constitutional Court which contrary to public opinion does hand down some verdicts which deeply displease AKP, such as the order two release two journalists currently on trial for Gulenism.

As well, the Grand Assembly can lift the State of Emergency and through the committees open Reza Zarrab files, or countless accusations of fraud and embezzlement in past AKP administrations, shaming Erdogan.

If such a scenario were to materialize, “the nation’s business” would slow down substantially, while the hapless bureaucracy would not know whom to heed.

 

Never take Turkish politics for granted.

 

Damon H. Grande

 

Visit our sister website www.istanbulanalytics.com  for select English politics and economy articles on Turkey

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