Turkey's AKP is Erdoğan’s party after all
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu did not ask for much actually while getting prepared for the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Parti) congress on Sept. 12. After being handpicked by President Tayyip Erdoğan to succeed him as the chairman of the AK Parti and as the prime minister after Erdoğan’s election as president on Aug. 10, 2014, Davutoğlu wanted to have more say in the party’s executive bodies.
Davutoğlu wanted to be more inclusive with regard to the party veterans who contributed a lot during its reign of 13 years and whom Erdoğan wanted to sideline with a ban on being candidates for more than three consecutive elections, and perhaps bring some names up out of his group of close advisors - some of them are already MPs now.
He did not have to consult or talk to Erdoğan about his list of candidates for the party organs, since the president was supposed to remain non-partisan according to the constitution. But he did. Perhaps out of his respect and gratitude to Erdoğan, he went to the presidential palace on the evening of Sept. 9, according to Turkish media reports, and returned with many of the names on his list crossed out, again as reported by the Turkish media. According to claims in the political backstage of Ankara there were names like Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, also one of the three founding fathers of the AK Parti and Ali Babacan, the economy captain of the AK Parti governments for the last 13 years and a well-respected name in international financial circles.
The same evening Abdullah Gül, the former president and also a member of the AK Parti triumvirate, had a “friendly chat over Turkish tea” with a group of the his long-time AK Parti fellows in Ankara, reportedly trying to take their pulse regarding the congress. The possibility of Gül appearing in the congress was still lingering by then, and Gül’s return to the party had the potential to change its inner balances entirely; for example, Babacan and Davutoğlu were names whom were invited to the party by Gül in the first place.
On Sept. 10, the tension within the AK Parti suddenly increased because of an alleged “request” from delegates to sign blank pages in support of Binali Yıldırım’s candidacy in the congress. Yıldırım is a former transportation minister and has been known as Erdoğan’s right-hand man, especially in relation to business circles. If goes beyond hearsay, his candidacy would certainly mean that Erdoğan did want Davutoğlu to go;
Yıldırım would not resist the party executives list that Erdoğan desires to be voted on in the congress. By the evening of Sept. 10, it was almost clear that Davutoğlu gave his approval to almost all the names Erdoğan wanted him to put on the executive bodies’ candidate list, of course sacrificing some names he wanted to call in since the number of seats in the executive bodies are fixed.
On Sept. 11, as the news hit the wires that Gül would not attend the congress, even as a visitor, Beşir Atalay, the AK Parti spokesman, announced Davutoğlu would be the only candidate and the list he would submit would be the only list to be voted on in the congress; having competition within the party has not been a party tradition anyway.
The AK Parti is Erdoğan’s party after all. Erdoğan wants the AK Parti to regain its parliamentary majority that it lost in the June 7 election in the reelection on Nov.1. He wants to see an AK Parti government once again, partly to be able to exercise de facto executive powers by a constitutional change with the support of the party he had founded. He sees the AK Parti congress as a preliminary step to regaining power, taking the risk that if the outcome of the election is the same again, forcing a coalition, probably with the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), it would not be Davutoğlu to put the blame on.