Turkish nationalists could back AK minority government in return for November poll

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 04, 2015 9:17 AM

By Ercan Gurses

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's nationalist opposition would support a minority government formed by the ruling AK Party if it agreed to hold a snap election in November, its deputy chairman Semih Yalcin told Reuters on Tuesday.

In a sign of the sensitivities around efforts to form a new government, Yalcin subsequently issued a statement saying his words had been misrepresented. He could not immediately be reached by telephone to clarify his position.

The AKP, which had ruled alone for more than a decade, has so far made little progress in its efforts to find a junior coalition partner after losing its majority in a June general election for the first time.

It has another three weeks to agree a working coalition, try to govern alone, or face a new election. The uncertainty comes at a difficult time for NATO member Turkey facing turmoil across its borders in Syria and Iraq and renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels.

A caretaker AKP government has launched air strikes against rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) camps in northern Iraq and Islamic State fighters in Syria, moves seen by opponents as a bid to shore up nationalist support and undermine the pro-Kurdish opposition ahead of a potential fresh vote.

"We will not support an ordinary minority government by the AK Party, but if the minority government means an election government, we would have to see the election date," Yalcin, deputy head of the nationalist MHP, said in an interview.

"We can support an AK Party minority government on the condition of holding an election in November," he said.

Policy statements from the MHP are usually issued by leader Devlet Bahceli alone, and in his subsequent statement, Yalcin said his comments had been taken out of context and that the MHP would not support a minority government.

In the interview, Yalcin said the MHP would not consider entering a full coalition with the AKP unless it met conditions including the formal end to a peace process with the PKK launched by President Tayyip Erdogan three years ago.

"Just a few comments suggesting it's dead is not adequate. It should be declared by the prime minister," Yalcin said.

It would be wrong to think any coalition agreement with the MHP could easily be reached, he said.

"This would create an impression that AKP has MHP in their pocket. This is absolutely wrong. We should not be expected to form a coalition with the AKP unless our conditions are met."

Erdogan has described the Kurdish peace process as "impossible to continue" after Turkish jets hit PKK positions in northern Iraq in recent weeks in response to a series of killings of members of the Turkish security forces.

But both the government and PKK have stopped short of declaring a definitive end to peace negotiations.

ELECTION GAMBIT

Erdogan has meanwhile made little secret of his preference for single-party rule. Opponents say he wants another election to enable the AKP to win enough of a majority to change the constitution and hand him greater executive powers.

A majority of Turks see Erdogan as the biggest obstacle to a coalition deal while almost two thirds see recent military action as part of an attempt to achieve different results at an early election, a poll by research company Gezici showed on Tuesday.

The survey showed 56.8 percent of those asked saw Erdogan as the main block in coalition negotiations. A quarter blamed the opposition for the lack of progress, while less than 20 percent saw Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as responsible.

If the June 7 vote were to be re-run this Sunday, little would change, the poll suggested. The AKP would still be unable to govern alone while the pro-Kurdish HDP, whose strong performance cost the AKP its majority, would stay in parliament.

The poll of 4,860 people, taken on July 25-26, put the AKP on 41.9 percent, up slightly from 40.9 percent in June. The main opposition CHP, which has been in coalition talks with the AKP, saw its support rise just over a percentage point to 26.3.

The MHP lost one percent to 15.3 percent, while the pro-Kurdish HDP slipped to 12.3 percent from 13.1.

The AKP held a final day of exploratory coalition talks with the CHP on Monday, but there were few signs of concrete progress.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc described the talks as "positive" but said the ball was now in CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu's court.

"If the day come when Kilicdaroglu says 'sorry, but we will not form a government [with you],' then we will alter our course to the MHP. I believe we can form a government [with the MHP] if we can reach a common understanding," Arinc told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Nick Tattersall)