ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's prime minister on Monday kicked off a first round of talks on forming a coalition government by meeting members of Turkey's secularist party — the main rival to his ruling Islamic-rooted party.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Kemal Kilicdaroglu and other leaders of the Republican People's Party to test the waters for a possible "grand coalition" between the two parties, which together would have an unassailable majority but have deep-seated rivalries.
Turkey's June 7 election left Davutoglu's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, short of a majority, forcing it to seek a partner in one of the three smaller parties in parliament.
Davutoglu is to meet with the leaders of the hard-line nationalist party Tuesday and the pro-Kurdish party Wednesday — although he has previously ruled out an alliance with the Kurds. He has 45 days in which to form a government.
The ruling party's likely partners have all demanded a diminished role for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a condition for any alliance. They insist Erdogan — who founded the ruling party, led it as prime minister for over a decade and remains a dominant political force — be reined in and stick to the presidency's largely ceremonial powers.
Davutoglu has said the president's position is not up for debate.
The smaller parties are also demanding that corruption cases into four former ministers close to Erdogan be reopened.
Analysts say a coalition between secularists and the ruling would be difficult to sustain. The Nationalist Movement Party, which shares a conservative voter base with the AKP, is a more natural ally.
An alliance with the secularist party would however, allow the government to press ahead with a two-year-old peace process with Turkey's Kurdish rebels. The nationalists strongly oppose the peace talks.