President Erdoğan puts his stamp on AKP congress
HÜRRİYET photoFor the first time since it’s founding in 2001, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) held its regular congress without the presence of its founding leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but he made his clout felt with loyal names elected to the party’s decision-making body, overshadowing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s preferences after the latter’s reelection as AKP leader.
The fifth regular congress held on Sept. 12 came around one year after Davutoğlu was elected as party leader at an extraordinary congress held in August 2014, following Erdoğan’s election as president in a popular vote.
It also came just 49 days before the snap election due on Nov. 1, after parties failed to form a coalition after the June 7 general election.
A total of 1445 AKP delegates gathered in the early morning of Sept. 12 at the Arena Sports Complex to elect their leader and members of the party’s highest decision-making body, the Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK).
The eventual composition of the 50-seat MKYK was a crystal-clear reflection of Erdoğan’s will to keep the party under his control. Figures close to Davutoğlu as well as names known to have been close to former President Abdullah Gül, also a founder of the party, couldn’t find a place on the board, as 31 veterans who had been on the board earlier were eliminated.
The board will hold its first meeting late on Sept. 14. AKP Istanbul deputy Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son-in-law; former Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ; former Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, one of Erdoğan’s closest aides who tested the waters of challenging Davutoğlu for leadership shortly before the congress; and Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan were elected to the board.
Nonetheless, personalities dubbed doyens of the party - former Deputy Prime Ministers Bülent Arınç and Ali Babacan; former Deputy Prime Minister and party deputy chair and Spokesperson Beşir Atalay; and former Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin were among those who were not on the candidate list for the MKYK.
Close aides of Davutoğlu such as Taha Özhan, Adnan Boynukara and Ertan Aydın were not nominated for the board either.
‘Rules of fraternity’
The congress opened with the display of two separate videos, one focusing on the AKP’s history and the other one showing Erdoğan’s political career. With shouts of “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan” being the most popular slogan in the hall, the videos were followed by another, which reviewed the party over the last year under Davutoğlu’s leadership.
Yet, the video on Davutoğlu’s leadership was also marked by a quote from Erdoğan with a subtitle reading “rules of fraternity.”
Erdoğan’s hope is the AKP can win enough votes to change the constitution and create a more powerful presidency for him. Erdoğan had surrendered the prime minister’s position he had used to develop a strong grip on the country over 10 years and moved to the presidency confident he could transform it from a largely symbolic post to a powerful executive position. In this he seems - for now - to have miscalculated.
“Some of Erdoğan’s more drastic authoritarian moves are likely the result of political survival instincts,” Erik Meyersson, an assistant professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, told Reuters.
“In practice, this would mean retaining control over the leadership of the party - somewhat peculiar given that he’s not the official head of the party anymore - and appointing lieutenants [who are] personally loyal to himself,” he said.
One senior AKP official said this would annoy some factions, but that there was little they could do about it.
“Nobody can risk a massive breakup, and everyone is aware of this sensitivity,” the official told Reuters.