Turkey President Erdogan ready to climb down

President meets opposition leader in modest Ankara home, hints at compromise.

By (Reuters)

Published: Fri 12 Jun 2015, 1:05 AM

Last updated: Wed 26 Aug 2020, 12:15 PM

Ankara — The choice of venue seemed to say it all.
Straying from his vast new $500 million palace, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan hosted a senior opposition lawmaker at his more modest Ankara residence on Wednesday and appeared, so the lawmaker said, to be in a mood for compromise.
The AK Party Erdogan founded more than a decade ago lost its parliamentary majority in weekend polls, ending more than a decade of single-party rule and dealing a blow to ambitions for a powerful US-style presidency. For Turkey, a political uncertainty not seen since the 1990s beckoned.
Forced to find a coalition partner for the first time in its history or risk an unstable minority government, the conservative, the AKP’s top brass held a third day of meetings on Wednesday to consider their options. Erdogan, yet to appear in public since Sunday’s election, held a two-hour meeting with Deniz Baykal, parliament’s oldest deputy and the head, until 2010, of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
As the elder of the house, Baykal will lead parliament’s first session following the election and he was officially meeting Erdogan to discuss the reopening. During the talks, the president sounded ready for any compromise. “I observed that Mr President has an understanding that a government should be formed as soon as possible and has a positive attitude on the issue,” Baykal told reporters after the meeting.
“I got the impression that he is open to all coalition solutions”, including a partnership which would exclude the ruling party that he founded. “That would be quite a climb-down for a man who has in the past cast his political rivals as terrorists and traitors. Hopes of a more conciliatory stance from the Turkish strong man reassured nervous financial markets, with the stock market ticking up on Baykal’s comments.
Champion of the conservative, pious masses, Erdogan views Baykal’s CHP, the party of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as the bastion of secularists whose elitist mentality he blames for much that is wrong with the country.
There is also little love lost with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), ideologically a more likely coalition partner, whose leader Devlet Bahceli has criticised Erdogan’s ambitions for an executive presidency and warned him to “remain within his constitutional limits”.
But some of those around Erdogan say he has been chastened by the election outcome and forced to accept compromise.
“He is the founding leader of the AKP and our president, but we have entered a new period with different dynamics,” a senior AKP official involved in coalition discussions said.
“I think Erdogan is reflecting on the election results and taking some steps accordingly ... Time will tell how permanent this will be.”
The prospect of a coalition has revived memories for some older Turks of the fractious, short-lived governments that battered the economy in the 1990s and triggered a string of army coups in the second half of the 20th century.
“There is no trust. Not between people, and not between the parties,” said Halil Canikli, 55, a former plumber in the Ankara suburb of Sincan, a working-class AKP stronghold.
“Working-class families here... will be drastically affected by these results and by the collapsing economy,” he said. — Reuters

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