Turkish opposition accuses Erdogan of stalling on government mandate

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2015 8:20 AM

By Gulsen Solaker and Ercan Gurses

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish opposition MPs accused President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday of stalling efforts to form a coalition government as he seeks to maintain his grip on power, a month after the AK Party he founded lost its parliamentary majority.

The June 7 vote left the AKP unable to rule alone for the first time in over a decade, plunging Turkey into political uncertainty not seen since the 1990s and thwarting for now Erdogan's ambition to amass greater power.

Formal coalition talks cannot begin until Erdogan gives Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu the mandate to form a new government, at which point he has 45 days to do so or face the prospect of another election.

Some opposition MPs have suggested Erdogan is stalling to sow opposition disarray and to ensure the AKP is still firmly in power for a High Military Council (YAS) meeting in August, where key army commanders are appointed.

"He wants the changes to be made at the YAS to be done by him alone without debate, with the old cabinet and the old political climate," Ozgur Ozel, an MP with the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), told Reuters.

"He thinks the slow process will trigger disputes in the opposition, rather than in his own party," he said, adding the aim was to boost AKP support in case of another election.

Reining in a military which forced four governments from power in the second half of the 20th Century was one of Erdogan's priorities during his 12 years as prime minister.

YAS meetings - at which retirements, transfers and disciplinary actions are decided - were a key element of that process. The current head of the armed forces, General Necdet Ozel, is set to retire at the August meeting.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus poured cold water on claims of a deliberate delay, telling broadcaster Haberturk on Tuesday that Erdogan would "most probably" give the mandate to Davutoglu this week.

Davutoglu meanwhile last week rejected suggestions that the AKP would wait until after the YAS to form a new government, while Erdogan himself has said he will only give the mandate once parliament's new administration is in place.

A speaker was elected last week but an administrative board is yet to be agreed.

As president, Erdogan is constitutionally bound to remain above party politics but effectively turned the June election into a referendum on his ambitions for an executive presidency, campaigning around the country.

He chaired a cabinet meeting in his controversial new palace on Monday, something which opposition parties have said must end if they are to enter any coalition.

"The president has given the message since the beginning that 'this process will advance under my control'," Meral Danis Bestas, deputy chairwoman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), told Reuters.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Clelia Oziel)