Fresh polls loom after coalition bid fails

Turkey headed for period of instability amid growing threat from ISIS

An ISIS video, the first in Turkish language, calls on Muslims in Turkey to revolt against President Tayyip Erdogan (front row, third from left)
An ISIS video, the first in Turkish language, calls on Muslims in Turkey to revolt against President Tayyip Erdogan (front row, third from left)PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL • Prospects for a period of instability in Turkey have increased after attempts by the dominant party to form a coalition government officially ended in failure.

The development helped create the basis for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call for a new election, which would mean the installation of a temporary government just as Turkey is facing new threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in neighbouring Syria and a re-energised Kurdish insurgency at home.

The first Turkish-language ISIS video, released on Monday, called for Turkish Muslims to revolt against the President.

Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, which has shaped Turkish politics for more than a decade, was stunned in a June 7 election, losing a parliamentary majority partly because of gains by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party.

Lengthy negotiations by Mr Erdogan's prime minister, Mr Ahmet Davutoglu, ended without an agreement for a coalition, first with the largest opposition party, the Republican People's Party, then with a smaller, far-right nationalist party.


Whether it is accepted or not, Turkey's system of government has changed.

MR RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey's President in a speech recently

Mr Erdogan could now theoretically ask the Republican People's Party to take over efforts to form a coalition government, but that outcome is highly unlikely before the Aug 23 deadline set by the Constitution.

Since his party's June defeat, Mr Erdogan's critics have accused him of taking actions - including a new crackdown on Kurdish militants - to sabotage the formation of a coalition and to justify a call for new elections so that he could try to regain a parliamentary majority.

If no government is formed by Aug 23, Mr Davutoglu must dissolve his Cabinet, and an "election government" composed of all parties in Parliament would carry the country towards the vote. Such a change could complicate, among other things, a recent decision to cooperate more closely with the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.

Mr Erdogan's political adversaries say he wants a parliamentary majority to help him achieve his ambitions of changing the Constitution to establish an executive presidency, which would have more power.

"Whether it is accepted or not, Turkey's system of government has changed," he said last Friday.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, which opposes such a change, has proposed a referendum to determine whether the Turkish public wants the president's constitutional powers strengthened.

"The state regime cannot be changed with a fait accompli," Mr Selahattin Demirtas, the party's co-chairman, said on Tuesday.

The increased political and military tensions have raised uncertainty in the country.

The Turkish lira, a barometer of stability, has weakened sharply.

Worries created by the failure of negotiations for a political coalition were compounded by the ISIS video threat aimed at Mr Erdogan and his cohorts.

Until recently, Turkey, a Nato member and long-time United States ally, had been criticised for not taking a more active role against ISIS. Its reluctance partly reflected fear of retaliation within Turkey and from across its border with Syria.

Mr Erdogan's government decided to move more forcefully against ISIS last month after a suicide bombing in the south-eastern district of Suruc that killed at least 34 people.

Although the speaker in the ISIS video did not make any specific threats against Turkey, the message to Turks was to reject democracy and their government and instead support the ISIS caliphate "wherever you are and however you can".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'Fresh polls loom after coalition bid fails'. Print Edition | Subscribe