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Fate of İncirlik deal in balance as Turkey goes to the polls

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The Turkish-U.S. deal signed last month allowing the use of İncirlik Air Base against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the military’s counterterrorism efforts against the PKK bases in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains are at risk due to the political impasse caused by the failure of the June 7 parliamentary elections to produce a viable coalition government.

The parliamentary resolution that allowed the government the mandate to sign the deal with the U.S. expires on Oct. 2, which will need to be reassessed by the caretaker government that will soon be formed, before submission for parliamentary approval. However, the Constitution states that the caretaker government, which will govern the country until early elections expected on Nov. 1, needs to consist of all parties in Parliament, which includes, in addition to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The MHP and CHP, both which rejected to join a coalition government with the AK Party and to take part in the caretaker government, are keeping their cards close to their chest concerning extending the mandate, while the HDP’s pro-PKK sympathies preclude their support for any deal that will allow the military continue its airstrikes in Qandil.

The agreement with the U.S. also allowed the creation of an ISIS-free zone in Syria for the protection of civilians and moderate Syrian forces.

With the end of the 45-day deadline to form a coalition government, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to use his prerogative to call for a new election. The HDP, which has announced its intention to join the caretaker government, will have three cabinet seats.

The resolution extending the government’s mandate will have to be put on the table in cabinet, before being submitted to Parliament. A parliamentary majority is needed to get an approval. Accordingly, the attitude of the parties in Parliament is crucial for the issue.

The HDP’s stance toward the recent spike in PKK violence that has cost dozens of lives does not give much hope for their support for the resolution. Ertuğrul Kürkçü, co-spokesman and İzmir deputy of the HDP, stressed that the party’s attitude will depend on several conditions in this hypothetical situation. “First, is there an election in the future? Secondly, will a caretaker government be formed? Thirdly, which portfolios will be in our hands? Also, this is a hypothetical situation we are talking about, which we cannot comment on,” he said.

Despite MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s previous support for the military’s operations against both the PKK and ISIS, nothing can be certain in light of his contradictory stance during the coalition negotiations. MHP’s Eskişehir deputy Ruhsar Demirel said that the content of the resolution would be a determining factor. She said, “When the content is seen and discussed, then our party will decide what this country needs and we will decide accordingly. However we need to see the resolution first.”

Regarding the issue, CHP Vice Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu said the party has not made a certain decision as yet and remarked, “However, this issue might also be discussed in the meeting of the party assembly today [yesterday].” By the time Daily Sabah went to press, the CHP’s meeting had not yet ended. It is known that the party had opposed the mandate proposed by the government proposed October 2014, because the party considered the safe-zone to be “a threat for Turkey.”

In the event of the resolution failing to pass the Parliament, which cannot be discounted, its effect on the way Turkey pursues its foreign policy will be monumental. Can Acun, a prominent expert on Middle Eastern politics from the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), said such an event would be a huge blow to Turkey’s foreign policy. “It would block the Turkish military’s aim to create a safe-zone in northern Syria in cooperation with the U.S. Also, it would weaken the operations against the PKK. Consequently, it will have a serious cost on Turkey’s national security and be a very problematic process.”

Resource: Daily Sabah, August 23, 2015

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