MUSTAFA AKYOL > The AKP after Erdoğan

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It has been almost a decade since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in Turkey. And regardless of whether you like it or not, the party has proved to be a phenomenal success. It has not only transformed Turkey in significant ways, but has also done something that no one else has ever done: won three elections in a row, with a steady increase in votes. 

The reasons for this success are complex, and most of them have to do with the good shape of the economy and improved living standards. But another factor is the popularity of the party’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Although there are also people who passionately hate him, those who love him seem to make up a big chunk of Turkish society. His charisma not only keeps the AKP’s votes high, but also keeps the party, which is indeed a large coalition of various political trends, united.

Yet Erdoğan will not be the leader of the AKP forever. He, in fact, just declared that he would run for the leadership of the party this September for the last time. So, what will happen to the AKP after Erdoğan? 

First off, Erdoğan will probably not go anywhere too far. His apparent plan is to run in the presidential elections of 2014, which seems to be piece of cake: All polls show that he is the most likely candidate to be popularly elected to the presidency for the first time in Turkish history. (So far, presidents have been elected by Parliament, but a 2007 constitutional amendment supported by the AKP and approved in a referendum changed that tradition and made the presidency a popularly elected post.)

In less then a year after those presidential elections, however, there will be the general elections of 2015, and the AKP will have to go Erdoğan-less. The identity of who will lead the party in this post-Erdoğan period has now become the million-dollar question in Ankara. 

There are two popular scenarios here. One is that Abdullah Gül, the current president, will “return” to the AKP after his presidency ends, lead the party and become the prime minister. (That would basically amount to a switch between Gül and Erdoğan.) The other scenario is that another popular figure in the AKP, such as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, will become prime minister. Some have speculated that Erdoğan would perhaps prefer rather a weak figure to take his place to make sure that he continues to call the shots.

However, a third scenario emerged this week, as Erdoğan took an unexpected step: He met Numan Kurtulmuş, the leader of the new and small HAS (People’s Voice) Party, and invited him to join the AKP ranks through a merger of their two parties. Kurtulmuş is still considering the offer, but if he agrees as expected, he is likely to be a candidate for the leadership of the post-Erdoğan AKP.

For Kurtulmuş, despite the extremely modest 1 percent of the vote his party received in the 2011 elections, is a popular and respected figure not just among conservatives, but even other circles, as a modest, polite, scholarly and principled politician. (“We found Kurtulmus in person both approachable and reflective,” said the American ambassador to Ankara in 2011, in what later became WikiLeaks. He also described him as “a gentler and kinder face” in his movement.) 

I, too, am fond of Kurtulmuş, and would like to see him as a prominent figure in the AKP. I also hope that such “new blood” might give us some sort of an “AKP version 2.0,” for the current version is rapidly going out of date and is unable to present the reformism that Turkey needs.


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Notice on comments

Aiman Aiman Baraja

8/26/2012 1:43:42 PM

Erdogan is the one leader than cant be changed by other. This is true by witnessing some increasing good condition from economic side and social side.

mara mcglothin

7/20/2012 3:27:19 PM

Sorry we won't be hearing from you BEGUM You always seemed to be the voice of reason in a conservative opinion there is rarely and reason. Please reconsider.


7/19/2012 11:05:57 AM

ı will never ever post any comments here again. not a single one.

Deniz Can

7/18/2012 7:36:33 PM

PART1At the moment there is no one he could fill Mr. Erdogan's shoes.However, there is only one Erdogan, regardless of his follower.It seems to be difficult to find another Erdogan.There are some comparisons about the future of ANAP and AKP.There is a big difference between ideologies of both parties.The AKP had ideology of transforming the society, which it to some extend succeeded.The ANAP worked for the transformation of economy.So the legacy of the AKP will last longer, despite a weak leader

Deniz Can

7/18/2012 7:36:06 PM

PART2 While the AKP created its political society it built institutions for islamic ideology throughout this transformation process.There are many civic organisations functioning under the protection of the APK. This ideology will not give up its gain, in case there is a new political power trying to re-establish the norm of democracy. It is too early to claim, but it is highly likely that there will be a strong conflict between new power and the supports of Neo-Orthdox-Sunnisim

Hasan Kutlay

7/18/2012 6:37:20 PM

AKP 2.0 will not be a democratizing force, it will think of consolidation of its power in the centre and will be the defender of the new statusquo with same dirty tactics as we are used in Turkey. You as a citizen may be eager to see further democratization, but political actors in Turkey are different,they are power hungry and very distrustfull toward their political opponents.Unless there will be elite settlement and pacifying of political culture,there will never be real democracy in Turkey.

stella maris

7/18/2012 5:53:11 PM

It might be more appalling and hopefully realistic to ponder on the possible real progress in democracy and freedom and peace after the AKP was thrown out of power, which I hope will happen with the next elections.

Blue Dotterel

7/18/2012 4:52:07 PM

The AKP will go the way of the Motherland Party after Turgut Ozal.

mara mcglothin

7/18/2012 4:10:51 PM

Seems that the AKP should learn from the CHP mistakes and be progressive enough to find some new young faces! While GUL is the only real statesman that Turkey has at the moment, he still has a backward mentality that will not serve Turkey well in the long run.


7/18/2012 3:35:41 PM

Zouqul I guess that as they say, there are no deadends in democracy. If switching positions is ok with people then they will continue to vote for AKP. If people gets the impression that two persons monopolize power, then the elections will punish them by depriving of power
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