Except for the timing, this latest crisis between the Islamist Fethullah Gülen fraternity and the Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was no surprise. Not only the clan and the government waged at least two battles since the 2007 elections, from the beginning of this past summer tension was dangerously building up in the political fault line between the two. Probably tensions and eventual fight between the two was just unavoidable as coalition helps coming to power but once there sharing power is not as easy as is said.
Gradually but persistently since the 2007 elections, or the ruling Justice and development Party (AKP) survived a closure case at the Constitutional Court Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan carved himself some sort of a “master of the universe” role. The “Master” soap opera on the life of the premier aired early in the summer on Beyaz TV owned by Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek might help to understand the psychological as well as the cringing environmental factor feeding the “master of the universe” obsession.
In 2002 the help of the Gülen clan was an asset in order to come to power. Even though Erdoğan did not believe support of the clan might be needed in staying in power as well, since the country returned to civilian rule in 1983 Gülenists indeed played an instrumental role in the shaping of governments.
Weren’t they supporting Turgut Özal in 1983? Or how late Bülent Ecevit came to power in 1999? How would the AKP come to office so strongly in 2002 had the clan did not support it?
But, Erdoğan was the first ever Turkish premier who managed to stay in power three consecutive terms and increase the votes of his party at every election. Anyhow, as was reflected from his rhetoric, Erdoğan believed that he was no longer the “apprentice” of 2002 or the “foreman” of 2007, he proved that he has become a “master” by getting electoral support of one in every two Turks in the 2011 elections. Would such a strong leader need the backing of an Islamist clan the leader of which has been on a self-exile in Pennsylvania?
Furthermore, important strides were achieved in the battle against the secularists and the Kemalists; academia, military and the judiciary were adequately tamed. Now it was high time to become the absolute ruler and consolidate his grip on the country. Why should Erdoğan continue collaborating with the Gülen clan or share power with it?
Probably it was in such a mood purge of the members of the clan in the bureaucracy, particularly in police intelligence accelerated after the 2011 elections by the Erdoğan government. The pre-school discussions were no coincidence as was the effort by the clan to bring in front of court the top spy of the country. The target there was of course the prime minister. With an overnight judicial amendment Erdoğan provided sufficient shield of persecution to the intelligence chief and the entire intelligence apparatus aware that indeed it was he who indeed placed at the bulls eye and if he sacrificed the top spy, the hunt would be for his head…
The pre-school crisis, graft probe and the consequent purge at almost all levels of police departments throughout the country, curses and counter-curses clearly demonstrate that the Gülen clan has no further area to step back, it has been effectively pushed to a corner. The government, on the other hand, started to act as if it assessed that this is an existential fight and either the AKP government or the Gülenists will be eradicated…
Thus, this existential fight between the two will continue…