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Erdogan calls on Turks to choose 'stability' in upcoming elections

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has invited a minister of the pro-Kurdish HDP to join a caretaker government
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister and AKP leader Ahmet Davutoglu are pictured in Ankara on 24 August (AFP)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday urged Turkey to vote for "stability" in 1 November polls, as three pro-Kurdish MPs were invited into a caretaker government in an unprecedented move.

If the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) MPs accept, it will be the first time in Turkish history that representatives of a pro-Kurdish party have taken seats in the government.

The repeat elections come after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to win an overall majority in a 7 June vote and subsequent talks to form a coalition government broke down. 

The hugely intricate formation of a caretaker government to take Turkey to the polls is unprecedented in the country's political history - never before have post-poll coalition talks ended without results. 

"I believe that 1 November will be an election of stability or instability," Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara. "God willing, this country will reach stability again."

The comments were seen as a clear message to vote for the AKP and return its overall majority, thus avoiding the notorious instability that had dogged Turkish politics before the party came to power in 2002.

Erdogan voiced hope that "the problems created by the 7 June election results will be solved on 1 November".

"What's essential is the will of people. Our people will have its word once again on 1 November," said Erdogan. 

The AKP only needs 18 more MPs in the upcoming elections in order to form a single-party government.

“It is likely that (AKP) will focus on the need to continue down the path of stability and economic prosperity that Turkey has experienced under the AKP’s single-party government over the last 13 years,” wrote Galip Dalay, research director at Al Sharq Forum and senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish Affairs at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies.

“In contrast, the opposition is likely to blame the failure of coalition-building on the AKP. It will contend that the AKP is no longer the source of stability, and that rather it is the cause of instability and economic slow-down,” he added.

While Erdogan hopes that Turkey will return to a single-party government led by AKP after the elections, a recent survey by the independent MetroPOLL shows that HDP is now at 14.7 percent and the AKP remains at 41.7 percent, according to the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman.

Several analysts say the 1 November election will probably bring in a similar picture to that which was ushered in by the 7 June election.

"It seems like the snap election will not generate a different political situation from the election on 7 June," Today’s Zaman reporte Ozer Sencar, the chairman of MetroPOLL as saying.

“If this proves correct, the AKP will enter the coalition talks with a weakened position after the election,” said Dalay.

“Even if it (AKP) gains enough seats to form the single-party government, this will be a fragile government, barely above the threshold,” he added.

Caretaker government 

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is now seeking to form a caretaker cabinet as a constitutional obligation following the failure to form a coalition. Analysts have suggested the outcome is one he had wanted to avoid at all costs. 

According to the constitution, such an interim government must be formed with ministries shared among Turkey's parties according to their share of the seats in parliament.

The ruling AKP will have 11 ministries, the second biggest party the Republican People's Party (CHP) five and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the HDP three a piece.

The cabinet will rule up until the polls, where the AKP hopes to regain its overall majority. 

Challenges ahead

Analysts have said the invitation for the HDP is hugely awkward for Davutoglu as Turkish forces continue in an offensive against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters.

"This is a worst-case scenario for Davutoglu and the AKP," wrote Murat Yetkin, editor-in-chief of Hurriyet Daily News.

Davutoglu and Erdogan have accused HDP of being the political front for the PKK, which is outlawed by Turkey and its Western allies as a terror group.

HDP MPs Levent Tuzel, Muslum Dogan and Ali Haydar Konca have been invited into the cabinet, the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted a government statement as saying.

While HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas has said his party is willing to take part in the caretaker cabinet, the CHP and MHP have said they will not join the government.

Unless they change their decision, their cabinet seats will be taken by apolitical experts, raising the prospect of the AKP having the HDP as its sole political cabinet partner until the 1 November polls.

But disagreements between the AKP and the HDP over the caretaker government have already emerged.

HDP spokesman Ayhan Biligen said the parliament speaker should ask for names from each party, highlighting that the HDP wants to choose its own ministers for the caretaker government.

"Assuming that a short-term government could not take executive initiatives, the parties' internal decision processes should be respected," BGS news website quoted Bilgen as saying.

Further complicating the picture, MHP MP Tugrul Turkes, son of party's founder Alparslan Turkes, defied the party line to accept the invitation. The party leadership ordered him to resign or face dismissal. 

According to the Turkish Constitution it is not required that parties agree to send candidates to a caretaker cabinet being formed, wrote columnist Ilnur Cevik in the Turkish Daily Sabah on Tuesday.

“[The Constitution] says the prime minister will offer cabinet posts to deputies from the parties and if they accept they will become ministers,” said Cevik, pointing out that individual ministers could make that decision themselves without their parties’ consent.

Erdogan on Wednesday blasted the CHP and the MHP for snubbing the invitation, saying: "They have other concerns. They don't care about serving this country."

The prospective ministers should reply to the invitation by Thursday evening.

Reports have indicated that the HDP could be offered the ministries of youth and sports, water and forests and EU affairs, but not key security portfolios.

But HDP’s involvement in a transitional government at any capacity is a positive step for Turkey, experts say.

“The HDP joining such a transitional government is important for the normalisation of Kurdish politics in Turkey,” wrote Dalay.

“One of the ultimate signs of the settlement of the Kurdish issue in Turkey will be the representation of the Kurds in the political centre with their own identity and demands,” he added.

The election campaign will come at a time of political uncertainty and escalating violence between Turkey's security forces and Kurdish fighters, which nullified a 2013 ceasefire.

At the same time, this caretaker government will have important decisions to take in the coming two months.

“This government has to deal with the massive economic problems while also preparing the 2016 fiscal year budget,” wrote Daily Sabah columnist Cevik.

As the world faces a serious financial crisis with the developments in China, the Turkish lira has been in a nose dive against the dollar and euro, putting Turkey in the face of serious economic challenges and a threat of recession.

The government "also has to deal with the growing threats of the Islamic State … and the PKK … as more Turkish soldiers and policemen (are killed) every day,” he added.

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