When four of Turkey’s largest opposition parties rock up at the Electoral Commission this weekend to hand in the paperwork for their electoral alliance, there will be a notable absence.
The partnership brings parties claiming to represent centre-left, centre-right, nationalist and pious voters, but unless there’s a last-minute change of heart, Turkey’s most successful Kurdish party won’t be there.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is the third largest party in parliament and attracted support in Turkey’s twin 2015 elections not just from its ethnic base, but from left and liberal-minded Turks.
The party has had a horrendous time since then: its leaders are behind bars awaiting trial and nearly all of its MPs have spent at least some time in custody.
What’s more, Turkey’s media has largely ignored its plight in the midst of a government campaign to pan it as an agent of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.
That association has made the party electorally toxic in certain parts of the country and is thought to be the main reason Meral Akşener’s Good Party, which has a strong Turkish nationalist voter base, rejected any possibility of HDP involvement in the new alliance.
Figures in the main opposition CHP, the other large partner in alliance, had called for the “broadest possible” alliance to oppose Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party – but with a deadline to register the alliance looming on Sunday 6 May, it’s looking increasingly unlikely.
That would mean the HDP entering this election alone, which is a move that carries significant risk because if it cannot win at least 10 percent of the vote nationwide, it cannot elect any MPs at all.
Long-time readers of this website will remember this was a problem in 2015 as well.
But an additional risk in this election is that the new opposition alliance is unlikely to be competitive in 14 key provinces in southeastern Turkey where it’s a toss-up between the HDP and the AK Party.
These are the provinces that produced only AK and HDP MPs in the last two elections and where other parties barely registered a presence.
In this election there are more seats in Turkey’s parliament than before and these provinces now account for 79 seats. If the November 2015 result were repeated again this June, they would produce:
AK Party: 31 seats
HDP: 48 seats
But the HDP managed to secure 10.76% of the vote nationwide in November 2015. If these provinces voted largely the same way but the HDP lost even a single percentage point elsewhere in the country, the result would be:
AK Party: 79 seats
HDP: 0 seats
The HDP contesting this election alone is a significant risk for all of Turkey’s opposition parties because its absence could gift the AK Party a majority.
Then again, that was what we said in 2015 too.