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Turkish PM starts coalition talks, defends Erdogan’s role

By Reuters - Jul 14,2015 - Last updated at Jul 14,2015

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (right) arrives for a meeting at the headquarters of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party in Ankara on Monday (AFP photo)

ISTANBUL — Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu kicked off long-delayed talks on forming a coalition government on Monday after firing a warning to opposition parties not to question the role of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the political process.

Opposition parties have signalled they want Erdogan to keep out of daily politics if they join any coalition government — a direct challenge to the president, who wants to turn his largely ceremonial role into a powerful executive post.

The Islamist-rooted AK Party, which Erdogan founded, lost its parliamentary majority in a June 7 election for the first time since it came to power in 2002, forcing it to seek a junior coalition partner or face the prospect of a fresh election.

Despite Erdogan's repeated calls for a new government to be formed quickly, some senior officials have suggested the best interests of both Erdogan and the AK Party could be in the failure of coalition talks and a new election.

Davutoglu, an AKP veteran, held a first round of coalition consultations on Monday with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition party, the staunchly secularist CHP.

The premier described the talks as "sincere" and "friendly", adding that both he and Kilicdaroglu had stressed the need to form a strong coalition government quickly. But he added the discussions did not amount to formal coalition negotiations.

Earlier, Davutoglu told opposition parties — who want Erdogan to stop chairing cabinet meetings — that rejecting the president's active role would doom coalition talks to failure.

"Opening to question the legitimacy of our president or the respectability of his office would lead to the sabotage of the coalition talks from the start," Milliyet newspaper quoted Davutoglu as saying.

Despite a constitutional ban on the head of state engaging in party politics, Erdogan turned last month's parliamentary election into a referendum on his own ambitions of forging an executive presidency.

The outcome frustrated those ambitions, at least for now, and plunged Turkey into political uncertainty not seen since the unstable coalition governments of the 1990s.

Snap election?

The Hurriyet daily reported Davutoglu as saying that if the coalition talks proved unsuccessful there would be a snap election, from which the AKP would benefit the most.

A poll commissioned by the AKP has shown that 5 per cent of voters would not back opposition parties again if there were an early election, according to a report by the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper over the weekend, suggesting the AKP could then win enough seats to form a single-party government.

The poll found the AKP would most likely take enough votes back from the CHP and the rightist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to give it 280 seats, up from 258 now, the newspaper said.

The CHP now has 132 seats and the nationalist MHP and pro-Kurdish HDP each have 80 seats.

 

Davutoglu was due to meet the MHP leader on Tuesday and HDP leaders on Wednesday.

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