Turkey PM, opposition chief hold crunch coalition talks
Turkish premier Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday met the main opposition leader for decisive talks that will likely determine if the country forges a coalition government or heads to snap polls.
Ankara: Turkish premier Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday met the main opposition leader for decisive talks that will likely determine if the country forges a coalition government or heads to snap polls.
Turkey has been without a full time government since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority in June 7 legislative elections for the first time since taking power in 2002.
The political impasse comes as Ankara wages one of its biggest security operations in years -- a cross-border offensive against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, and an offensive targeting Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey.
AKP leader Davutoglu and Republican People`s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Ankara began meeting at around 1100 GMT for what is seen as a final chance to agree a coalition.
"Whether Turkey will have a coalition or not will be probably seen today after the meeting," said Ozgur Altug, chief economist at BCG Partners in Istanbul.
While an initial round of talks began warmly, opposition politicians and commentators have accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of meddling in the process in order to trigger early elections.
Turkish press reports on Thursday said Kilicdaroglu had warned his party in a closed-door meeting that while Davutoglu was positive on a coalition "there are walls he is struggling to overcome", in reference to Erdogan.
The results of the June 7 elections were one of the biggest blows yet to the combative Erdogan and torpedoed his dream of parliament agreeing a new presidential system for Turkey.
On Wednesday, Erdogan indicated that he would not be bothered by the failure of the coalition talks, saying their collapse would not be a reason for a party leader to "commit suicide".Under the constitution, Davutoglu - as leader of the largest party - has until August 23 to agree a coalition.
Erdogan has said he does not have the authority to extend the deadline, but several commentators cast doubt on this.
"If he (Erdogan) thinks a government may be formed, he may extend this period," wrote columnist Mehmet Yilmaz in the Hurriyet daily.
"But he will not do such a thing because, indeed, he does not want a coalition -- he favours snap elections."
Analysts have said such elections could be called as soon as October or November, or next year if the AKP prefers to wait.
The pro-government press has in recent days published opinion polls suggesting the AKP would improve on its June 7 score of just under 41 percent if a new election was held.
"Will an election change the result? That is unknown," wrote commentator Abdulkadir Selvi in the pro-government Yeni Safak daily.
The main reason for the AKP`s failure to win an overall majority was the strong performance of the pro-Kurdish Peoples` Democratic Party (HDP) which won over 13 percent of the vote.
Critics have suggested that Erdogan ordered the security operation with the aim of discrediting the HDP by linking it to the outlawed PKK in order to harm its chances in a vote. The government has denied the claims.
Turkey`s initial air strikes against IS targets were warmly welcomed by the West but Ankara then triggered concern by concentrating its firepower against PKK rebels in Iraq.
US F-16 jets on Wednesday carried out their first air strikes against IS targets in Syria after taking off from a Turkish air base and analysts now expect Turkey may now play a fuller role in the coalition.