Turkish PM expects start of coalition talks next week

TURKISH Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he expected to receive a mandate to form a new government yesterday, paving the way for coalition talks more than a month after an election deprived his AK Party of a parliamentary majority.

Davutoglu was due to meet President Tayyip Erdogan at 0930 ET. Opposition lawmakers have accused Erdogan, a founder of the AKP and Turkey’s most popular – and polarizing – political figure, of deliberately delaying coalition talks to push for a snap election he hopes would give the AKP a majority.

Today the president will probably give the mandate to me to form a government. After receiving the mandate, I will ask for meetings with all political parties,” Davutoglu told members of his party in parliament.

“I plan to make the first round of coalition talks next week.”

Under parliamentary procedure, formal coalition talks cannot begin until the prime minister receives the mandate, at which point he has 45 days to form a new government or face the prospect of another election.

It remains unclear whether the Islamist-rooted AKP is leaning toward forming a coalition with the rightist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) or the main opposition left-leaning Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Sources have told Reuters some of the AKP’s top brass are leaning towards a grand coalition with the secularist CHP, although it remains to be seen whether that would be palatable to the AKP’s rank and file, many of who are devout Muslims.

MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said on Thursday his party would do “whatever it takes” to avoid political instability, in an apparent sign of readiness to negotiate.

Apart from the Kurdish peace process, analysts say the AKP is likely to face two other key “sticking points” in the coalition talks: potential military intervention in neighboring Syria and the powers of the presidency in Turkey.

While the nationalists oppose talks with the Kurds, the CHP has come out against intervention in Syria. Ankara has been boosting its security presence along the Syrian border, where pro-government newspapers have said it is looking at creating a “buffer zone”.

Neither the CHP nor the MHP has expressed support for the idea of a strong presidency championed by Erdogan and the AKP. Under Turkey’s current constitution the president has relatively limited powers, a situation Erdogan has vowed to change.

Davutoglu said last month he would not accept any coalition negotiations that questioned the legitimacy of Erdogan’s role.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which entered parliament for the first time after breaching a 10 percent voting threshold in the June election, has ruled out joining a coalition with the AKP.

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