Can Davutoğlu put his own mark on the AKP?

Can Davutoğlu put his own mark on the AKP?

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) will convene its regular convention on Sept. 12 nearly a year after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was elected as the chairman of the party to replace its charismatic leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

The convention is believed to be the beginning of the AKP’s election campaign, as Davutoğlu will try to mobilize the party organization as well as its grassroots for the objective of re-gaining the power they lost in the June polls. The drive on the AKP’s side is clear: To gain at least a simple majority in parliament so it can form a single-party government in the way they enjoyed after 2002. 

But this convention is not only important in regards to the upcoming snap election. This weekend’s convention will also give an opportunity for the party’s executives to revise party politics which caused a decline of around nine points in the AKP’s votes and therefore announce sound changes to this end. 

It was Davutoğlu and some other senior AKP officials who confessed the real reason of the decline in votes was the party drifting away from its founding principles, in indirect criticisms towards previous leadership that failed to handle a corruption scandal in the right manner. Davutoğlu tried to adopt a stricter line in the fight against corruption through imposing the Transparency Law which was later blocked by President Erdoğan, who openly challenged the prime minister earlier this year. 

The anti-corruption issue is only one of the points of disagreement between Erdoğan and Davutoğlu, as the former believes he should put his pressure on the AKP management so that he can still control the party. That’s why this convention is of crucial importance for Davutoğlu, who was willing to put own mark on it by establishing an executive board loyal to him rather than to the president.

However, developments indicate Davutoğlu’s aspirations will remain short. There are reports that a meeting between the two men late Sept. 9 at the presidency did not go well for Davutoğlu, whose draft list was rejected by Erdoğan. Simultaneously, Erdoğan’s right-hand man, former Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, who was conducting secret talks with provincial organization of the AKP for some time, has appeared to be a potential candidate for the AKP leadership. The message to Davutoğlu was clear: An insistence on the party management list will remove you from the post you have. 

It’s understood that the message was clearly received by Davutoğlu who accepted to change the list in line with Erdoğan’s imposition. Furthermore, he reportedly accepted Erdoğan’s touch on the deputy lists for the upcoming parliamentary elections. 

As a result of what many calls in Ankara “Operation Yıldırım,” Erdoğan will likely continue to control the party at the expense of further deteriorating Davutoğlu’s image and power and to impose own tutelage on it. While Davutoğlu has to postpone his plans to revolutionize the AKP for some more time, it’s uncertain how his party will re-gain the power under such conditions. 

The AKP will still be Erdoğan’s party but a potential defeat in the upcoming polls will likely charge to Davutoğlu.