Turkey Parliament Fails to Elect SpeakerAfter Two Votes

tttTurkish lawmakers have failed to elect a new parliamentary speaker at the first two attempts on Tuesday in a key barometer of Turkish politics after the ruling party lost its majority on June 7 elections.

None of the four candidates got the 367 votes needed to secure the post in the 550-seat assembly, with two more rounds to be held on Wednesday.

The run-off can go to four rounds before it is decided on a simple majority.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade — put forward the relatively low profile Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz against the veteran former CHP party leader Deniz Baykal.

Baykal, 76, who chaired the first session of the new parliament on Tuesday as the oldest MP in the chamber, got 128 votes, well behind Yilmaz on 256.

With candidates from the smaller Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) likely to be eliminated in the third round, the two are set to face off in the final vote.

“If the HDP supports Deniz Baykal tomorrow, we will not vote for Baykal,” MHP leader Devlet Bahceli warned.

However it was not clear whether his party would boycott the vote or would back Yilmaz instead.

The election of the speaker is a key weathervane of how the formation of Turkey’s first coalition government since the AKP came to power in 2002 might pan out.

Even though AKP are still by far the largest party, the June 7 election was a blow not only to its authority but also to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had been hoping the new parliament would agree on a new constitution to increase his powers.

Nominating Yilmaz for speaker was also seen as a sign that the AKP could be willing to give up the post in return for a deal with the opposition to form a coalition.

Were the AKP to help Baykal win the speaker’s chair, it could increase the chance of an AKP-CHP grand coalition.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, however, again dismissed the suggestions on Tuesday, saying: “We have only one candidate and we will back him until the last round.”

Davutoglu said last week that any coalition talks would only begin once the speaker was elected.