The bombing of a peace rally in Ankara, the deadliest terrorist attack in Turkey’s history, is emblematic of the worsening security situation in Turkey. As Aegis’s latest risk alert points out, however, the political consequences of the attack are of potentially greater import as Turkey heads to its second general election in five months with scant trace of a path out of the parliamentary deadlock and political instability that have plagued the country. For your convenience a copy is available here and a copy of the text is pasted below.
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ASTRA* risk scores for Turkey
The AKP’s crucial test
What happened: On 10 October, in the largest terrorist attack in Turkey’s history, two suicide bombers targeted a peace rally organised in large part by the opposition Kurdish-rooted Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) outside Ankara’s main train station, killing 128 and wounding more than 150. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Why it matters: This is the third time in four months that terrorists have bombed Kurdish interests in Turkey; an HDP rally was attacked in June days before parliamentary elections, and volunteers to assist Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group were targeted in Suruç in July, killing more than 30. As Justice and Development Party (AKP) Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stated on 11 October, it is likely that ISIL is responsible for all three attacks, as it aims to drive a wedge between the Kurdish minority and the state in a bid to destabilise Turkey. While the Suruç attack succeeded in this regard, prompting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group to resume its campaign against the Turkish state after a two-year hiatus, this time may be different. On 12 October the PKK reiterated its commitment to a halt to its offensive campaign declared two days before; nevertheless security forces continue to assault the group’s positions in the east, and the PKK to respond (on 12 October it retaliated for the alleged demolition of several buildings around one of its graveyards).
But more worrying are the potential political effects of the Ankara bombing. This has come at a time when Turkey is in dire need of a strong and legitimate leadership to manage heightened political tensions, persistent security concerns, and a flagging economy. However, it is likely that second round of parliamentary elections this year, scheduled for 1 November, will deliver a near repeat of the result of June elections, when none of the parties won a majority; nor could they subsequently agree upon a coalition government. The only way to avoid such an outcome would be for the AKP to regain a parliamentary majority – even if its divisive political rhetoric, and its undoubted manipulation of security issues to try to create political support, might put into question both the legitimacy of any victory, and whether the AKP could deliver stability.
Yet the Ankara bombing has made this unlikely possibility even more remote. Since losing its majority in June due in large part to the success of the HDP and its charismatic co-leader Selahattin Dermirtaş, the AKP has tried to win over votes from the Nationalist Movement Party by playing the security card, including through vigorous prosecution of the military campaign against the PKK. It has also been subtly attempting to recover votes it lost to the HDP in the Kurdish regions, revising its parliamentary candidate list at its 12 September conference to include a number of regional Kurdish notables and élites more likely to mobilise voters than their predecessors. Yet given that the HDP, which enjoys significant support among Turkish Kurds, is encouraging the popular perception of the AKP’s culpability for the attacks on the Kurdish minority, the Ankara bombing is likely to reinforce animosity towards the ruling party in the eastern provinces. Indeed, the HDP, in much harsher rhetoric than it has used before, was quick to condemn the AKP and its hegemon President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the Ankara attack, claiming that the government was guilty either through complicity or negligence – so making it nearly impossible for the AKP to recover lost Kurdish votes.
Implications: The handling of the Ankara bombings will be among the AKP’s crucial tests in the campaign for November elections. Yet if past policies and current rhetoric are any indication, it is unlikely that the party will bridge the fissures in Turkish politics. This in turn means that the domestic instability, which has practically paralysed non-security policy-making, is likely to continue. Asserting a firm grasp on power will be necessary to maintain domestic order and enact the kinds of policies needed to ensure inclusion, stability, and growth in Turkey. This will not be possible, however, should the November elections produce a result in line with those seen in June. Turkey thus remains balanced between two outcomes: electoral manipulation and/or non-democratic action (such as partial martial law) aimed at delivering an AKP victory at the ballot box – or continued political paralysis in the form of a hung parliament or a weak and unstable coalition government. Either way, until something fundamental shifts, instability in Turkey looks like it is here to stay in the short to medium term.
Post by HELP Intelligence Experts - Aegis Advisory
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