Davutoğlu building his A-team for 2023 project
SERKAN DEMİRTAŞToday’s congress of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will be the first extraordinary one in 13 years, something not very usual for the always-shaky Turkish politics, giving us clues about the in-house stability of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party. Today, the AKP will vote for the election of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for the next chairmanship of the party, to mark its second era.
No doubt, Davutoğlu’s first priority will not be much different from his predecessor: to keep the ruling party stable and intact. This is why Davutoğlu and his team have been meticulously working on the formation of the next Cabinet and thus, the new party management.
Davutoğlu will probably be formally given the mandate to form the next government on Aug. 29, just a day after Erdoğan takes the office as president. He is expected to speedily introduce his Cabinet to President-elect Erdoğan on the same day. This is when we’ll all stop speculating about who’s in and who’s out in the Cabinet and start making sound analyses on Davutoğlu’s intentions. However, according to the signals delivered by ruling party officials, we can outline some of Davutoğlu’s intentions under certain titles:
Permanent Cabinet: Prime Minister-designate Davutoğlu is not building a temporary team. On the contrary, he is strategically building his A-team, a core group that will work with him over a number of years. But in order not cause an earthquake in the party, he is planning to do this Cabinet reshuffle in two phases. He will make his major changes in the Cabinet after the 2015 elections and hit the road with this team. The probable entry of Yalçın Akdoğan, Mustafa Şentop, both AKP deputies, and Hakan Fidan, the current undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), to the Cabinet will serve this end. Some of the Cabinet members who will not be able to run for Parliament in the 2015 elections due to the party's internal three-term restriction may keep their seats, but this is just not to further annoy already disturbed veteran AKP politicians.
Temporary economic management: One exemption to this principle of permanence seems to be in economic management. The deputy prime minister responsible for the economy, Ali Babacan, and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek are likely to continue to their jobs under Davutoğlu’s government. Not because Davutoğlu is so fond of working with Babacan, but because he needs to keep the economy on track, especially on the eve of next year’s elections, which will be his first and greatest-ever test.
A strong cadre: The seats of Interior Minister Efkan Ala, a prominent figure in the struggle against the so-called "parallel state," Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah İşler, Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, Sports Minister Çağatay Kılıç and Communication Minister Lütfi Elvan are likely to be under protection. While Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç may find himself out of the Cabinet, another Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay may continue in his position due to the sensitivity of the issues he is dealing with, such as the ongoing Kurdish peace process. His ultimate objective is to have a balanced and strong team to work with.
Foreign policy agenda: It’s no doubt that foreign policy will continue to be a high priority for Davutoğlu. It should be noted that Davutoğlu will be the first prime minister coming from a full-time Foreign Ministry office. His choice for the next foreign minister seems to be his most strategic decision at the moment. That’s why a lively debate on Fidan’s entry to the Cabinet is overwhelmingly preoccupying Ankara politics. It is sure that Davutoğlu wants to work with him, not because of the level of their harmony and co-operation, but because of the fact that both men share similar visions and objectives. The next prime minister’s right-hand man in internal politics is seemingly going to be Akdoğan and many agree that Fidan will be the one for foreign policy. If not now, then Fidan will surely get this position following next year’s elections.
Strategic planning: Both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have the objective to rule the country through the next 10 years under their 2023 project, the year that Turkey will celebrate its centennial anniversary. Both the composition of this government and the next one after the 2015 elections and government programs will underline their determination in accomplishing this very project.
This includes substantial constitutional amendments for the adoption of a presidential system, successfully concluding the Kurdish resolution process, full membership to the European Union, becoming the regional leader in the Middle East, and making Turkey one of the 10 largest economies in the world, etc. To cut a long story short, it is to transform Turkey into what they call the “New Turkey.”
Davutoğlu has two immediate challenges to this end: He should prove his leadership both in the party and in the government, proving that he can fill Erdoğan’s shoes with the decisions he will make and the positions he will take on a number of issues until the elections. His second challenge is to receive no less than 45 percent of votes in the 2015 elections to nix the plans of some of his potential dissidents in the party for the return of outgoing President Abdullah Gül. He knows perfectly well that there will always be an eye on his seat in the event of his failure as leader.