Scenarios for the AKP constitutional reform plan

June 26, 2011 - 0:0

It is nearly two weeks since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the Turkish parliamentary election, which will give it a third term in office.

More than 42 million people participated in the election and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP won 326 seats in the parliament. However, the AKP failed to win the two-thirds supermajority needed to amend the constitution.
According to the Turkish Constitution, there are two ways to make amendments: (1) gaining 367 votes in parliament without the need for a public referendum or (2) gaining the votes of at least 330 MPs plus winning the majority in a national referendum.
Since neither of these two outcomes was realized in the recent election, there are now five possible scenarios ahead of the AKP for amending the constitution.
Amending the constitution without a coalition
It is possible that by gaining the support of some of the independent MPs in the parliament, the AKP can attain 330 votes in the legislature. In such a scenario, there will be no need to form a coalition in the parliament. But this has it own risks, first of all because it is not clear whether the party can actually make up the deficit or not. And secondly, even assuming the 330 votes were acquired, in the next step it would be very difficult to convince the people to vote in favor of amending the constitution in a referendum without the support of at least one of the other major parties.
The decline in the number of seats the AKP has won in the past three parliamentary elections should create some concern for the party. In 2002, the AKP won 361 seats, which dropped to 341 in the 2007 election and fell to 326 seats in the recent election.
Forming a national unity government
The establishment of a national unity government is the most unlikely scenario for the AKP leaders. National unity governments have usually not been associated with positive experiences in other countries, mostly because the ratification of each plan and every decision requires the approval of other minor and major groups in the government. This can produce an inefficient government and dissatisfaction among the people.
Coalition with the Republican People’s Party
The establishment of a coalition with the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP), which has been the main opposition to the ruling party in recent years and received 26 percent of the vote in the recent parliamentary election, is not likely. In order to raise its influence in the parliament, the CHP will continue to play the role of a strong opposition as part of its plan to pave the way for it to win the next election. The serious disagreement between the leaders of the CHP and the AKP, especially in regard to the AKP’s Islamist policies, is a major obstacle to the formation of such a coalition.
Coalition with the Nationalist Movement Party
The National Movement Party (Milliyetci Hareket Partisi, MHP) also has many objections to Erdogan’s policies, especially the AKP’s reform program, foreign policy, and its efforts to establish reconciliation with Armenia. Therefore, this solution is not going to work either.
Coalition with the Kurds
The importance of the Kurds for the AKP is greater than the 36 seats they will have in the next parliament. The obvious but tacit alliance between the ethnic minority (the Kurds) and the intellectual, reform-minded trend (the Islamists) has been the main element behind the AKP’s three consecutive victories in the recent elections. The members of Turkey’s ruling party are completely aware of the fact that they need to gain the support of the Kurds to make any amendments to the constitution.
Prospects ahead
Bearing all this in mind, there is a high probability that a coalition between the Kurds and the AKP will be established in the near future. However, Erdogan and his colleagues are trying to implement the reform projects with the least amount of problems. The AKP is trying to present the issue of reform as a national priority. Although, the opposition groups in the parliament and the military still have many doubts about the reform program, it seems that the ruling party will be able to implement its reform program with the help of other groups.
Ardeshir Pashang is a researcher at the International Research Center for Peace Studies, which is based in London.