Is the needle likely to turn and point to the CHP?


Etyen Mahçupyan


The Turkish original of this article was published as İbre CHP’den yana döner mi? on 18th June 2015.



In the wake of the President’s “not me but we” appeal and his meeting and talk with Baykal, a possible AKP-CHP coalition has become more of a conversation piece. Facing the AKP are not one but two parties hungry for power, with a coalition with the MHP capable of beating the 330 and a coalition with the CHP capable of beating the 367 barrier. Of course, it is also the case that whatever the number, the AKP will be taking the constitution to a referendum. The question is whether an agreement can be reached with the CHP over a horizon constitutive of the “new.” The very existence of this possibility might cause the MHP’s red lines to turn pinkish. Faced with the problem of not adding further fuel to a separatist Kurdish geography, it is not out of the question for the MHP to differentiate between the political and the cultural in order to support various reforms needed for the cultural sphere. Ultimately, the AKP might pursue both coalition possibilities side by side so as to arrive at an optimal solution. 


Thus for a start, it is probably the case that the pointer is more inclined to the MHP. As the constitution has been shelved for the time being, it is only the Solution Process that you’ve got to agree on. If you can manage that, you could come up with a coalition that is predictable, not given to surprises, and much more efficient when it comes to coordinating its lower level cadres. In contrast, the AKP-CHP coalition preferred by the business community and the West is rife with all kinds of problems.  


Thus first there is the socio-cultural dissimilarity between the two party organizations and their extensions within the bureaucracy. This would be likely to reduce the possibility of mutual accountability, creating two mutually exclusive rent-extraction systems. Secondly, as a carrier of quasi-militaristic centralism and a party that has yet to free itself from residual legacy of authoritarian laicism, ideologically speaking the CHP is at the furthest possible remove from the AKP. While there might be some strategic advantages to entering into coalition with a formation that is virtually the AKP’s “antithesis,” insofar as this implies a rejection of all possible objections from the rank-and-file it could well recoil to the benefit of the MHP. Thirdly, the CHP is the socio-cultural standard-bearer of the “old” régime that the AKP has been challenging over the last thirteen years. To enter into coalition with it might come to be construed by some groups as the AKP’s capitulation to the system that it had been fighting in the political sphere, encouraging the emergence of pro-status quo elements within the party. A fourth point is that back-and-forth movement between the CHP and the Gülen Congregation is much smoother and uncontrollable compared with other parties. This can very quickly have undesirable consequences for the bureaucracy — a potential that cannot be ignored. Fifthly, institutionally speaking the CHP is very vulnerable to all kinds of external pressure and manipulation, which makes it highly unreliable for the future. Whether or how far any coalition can cope with such uncertainty, or to what extent the AKP may willing to should the risk, is a very functional question. Finally, to opt for the CHP while the MHP is readily available as a junior partner can amount to a sign of weakness which the AKP would be billed for at the next elections.  


In short, the CHP comes with too many handicaps. Still, if the CHP is so anxious to be in government, might it be capable of taking a massive step to neutralize all such negative factors by putting on the table the possibility of a constitution emancipated from its preamble? Could it even agree to a cooperation virtually without any strings attached, such being the attraction of power? If that were to be the case, the AKP, too, could take a different view of such potentially long-run collaboration, and could persuade its organization accordingly. For otherwise, it would not go beyond a token, short-run coalition solely for the purpose of keeping the economy moving, and it would be the CHP that would once more emerge as the loser.

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