Chairperson of Türkiye's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (2nd-L) poses with Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas (L), Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu (2nd-R) and his wife Selvi Kılıçdaroğlu (R) for the press ahead of a meeting with opposition party leaders in at CHP headquarter in Ankara, Türkiye, March 6, 2023. (AFP Photo)

Table for six plus two mayors: An unimaginable ‘coalition’

The opposition leaders charge President Erdoğan with instituting ‘one-man rule’ but their solution is unimaginable. Nowhere in the world has political power been shared by eight parties

Meral Akşener, the Good Party’s (IP) chairperson, has returned to what she recently called “the rubber-stamp table where personal greed takes precedence over Türkiye.” She thus agreed to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s endorsement as the opposition’s joint presidential candidate in exchange for “executive vice presidential” appointments for the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara, Ekrem Imamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş. In doing so, Akşener further complicated the situation around the “table for six,” which it severely damaged by leaving last week.

Indeed, the political tug-of-war, negotiations and formulas developed around that table, whose participants many have now stopped counting, reached an unprecedented level in Turkish political life. I repeatedly argued that the opposition bloc’s push for an “augmented” parliamentary system was immaterial, noting that their proposed presidential system would be far more important. To be honest, the political opposition was expected to do many different things. Yet the current situation is nothing short of mind-boggling. It also happens to contradict the nature of politics, power and public administration.

Before Akşener’s temporary departure, the opposition leaders were thinking about appointing five vice presidents equipped with presidential powers. Then came the two mayors, turning the “table” into a carnival. At this point, this is not even a coalition. The opposition advocated a system that is not only unconstitutional but also extremely complicated. We know that Kılıçdaroğlu is running for president. We also know that Yavaş and Imamoğlu will serve as “executive” vice presidents. Will Akşener be on the inside or outside? We know that she will serve as one of the vice presidents on the inside and position herself as a heavyweight if she ends up outside the Cabinet. Meanwhile, the Future Party (GP), Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), Felicity Party (SP) and the Democratic Party (DP) will get non-executive vice presidents and ministerial slots – just one level down.

Akşener in lose-lose trap

Akşener took two steps to challenge her “lose-lose” situation yet inflicted severe damage to the table’s credibility. The Turkish people perceived what happened as a sign that reinforcing the damaged table would not suffice. They realized that the opposition bloc, which sits on a faultline, won’t survive the election’s aftermath – even if it were to remain intact until election day.

The Good Party chairperson’s second decision, in turn, made her look “unpredictable” and “indecisive.” It also hurt her own party. In addition to putting CHP in the spotlight, Akşener appointed two guardians to monitor Kılıçdaroğlu. She used the two mayors to contain the CHP leader and fuel a power struggle within the main opposition party.

In the meantime, there is little point left in retaining the remaining four right-wing parties. It became perfectly clear that they were but a side dish from the start. At this point, they cannot even say that they joined the opposition for personal gain – let alone reassure conservative voters. Let us see whether those politicians, who recently claimed that they would exercise “president-like” powers, will be able to find chairs to sit around the table. Will they be on equal footing with Yavaş and Imamoğlu?

Nowhere in the world has political power been shared by eight parties – including Akşener. As a matter of fact, hardly anyone has even imagined such an arrangement. The opposition leaders charge President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with instituting “one-man rule” but their solution is unimaginable. They say that they will solve the preelection power-sharing problem by offering a seat to more people. I guess they would have to get rid of people around the table to resolve their political differences if they were to win.

If Kılıçdaroğlu wins the presidential race, he will be compelled to share his official power with seven more politicians. Let us also recall that the various left-wing parties, not to mention the pro-PKK Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), will make additional demands indirectly. They intend to sell the people on a “grand coalition” – which, in fact, will be a “beyond freakish” coalition.

[Daily Sabah, March 9 2023]

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