ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's hopes of assuming greater powers suffered a major setback on Sunday when the ruling AK Party he founded failed to win an outright majority in a parliamentary election for the first time.
The AKP now faces what could be weeks of difficult coalition negotiations with reluctant opposition parties as it tries to form a stable government, or could seek to go it alone as a minority government ahead of an early election.
Following are some possible scenarios:
If it is to enter into a coalition, the AKP's most likely junior partner is the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), with which it shares a certain degree of conservative and nationalist ideology.
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli, who has spoken out against Erdogan's ambitions to create a presidential system in Turkey, is likely to try to extract significant concessions in such an arrangement, including curbs on Erdogan's powers.
He warned on Sunday, as the election results came in, that Erdogan should "remain within his constitutional limits" or consider resigning. He also said Turkey should hold a new election if the AKP is unable to agree a coalition with parliament's two other opposition parties.
An AKP-MHP coalition could deal a blow to a peace process with Kurdish militants. MHP supporters oppose negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.
AKP and MHP combined would nonetheless have more than 330 of parliament's 550 seats, enough to take the country to a referendum on a new constitution.
If Prime Minister and AKP leader Ahmet Davutoglu is unable to form a stable government, tradition in Turkey dictates that Erdogan could ask the next biggest party in parliament - the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) - to try to do so.
However, there is no constitutional requirement for this, and it is far from certain that Erdogan, who has built a political career on opposition to the CHP, would go this route.
The CHP won around 132 seats, according to initial results.
It could team up in a coalition with the MHP and the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), which made it across the 10 percent threshold and entered parliament for the first time in Sunday's vote.
While it is unlikely that the MHP and HDP could set aside stark differences, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc challenged the three opposition parties to try to form a coalition, saying the AKP was ready to step into the void if they failed.
The AKP could seek to form a minority government, with the support of enough opposition deputies for it to win a confidence vote in parliament.
The MHP is the most likely to support this move, but would again seek to extract concessions such as a guarantee of an early election. Analysts see little interest for the CHP or HDP in supporting such a move.
If no working coalition can be formed, or a minority government fails to win a confidence vote within 45 days, the constitution gives Erdogan the authority to call an early parliamentary election.
That election would have to be held 90 days later.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Jonny Hogg; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Ralph Boulton