‘AKP chair, not leadership, is changing hands’

‘AKP chair, not leadership, is changing hands’

‘AKP chair, not leadership, is changing hands’ The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) extraordinary congress to elect a new chairman to replace the outgoing Prime Minister and President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken place amid much fanfare.

“This is the first time that the AK Parti has organized an extraordinary congress. This is a take-over ceremony, not a race, and what is being taken over is the party chair, not the party leadership. There is no race and no competition. The AK Parti is more proud about having a single candidate than having a democratic race in the congress,” Hürriyet Daily News editor-in-chief Murat Yetkin observed in the congress hall in Ankara on Aug. 27.  

Here are Yetkin’s impressions from the congress hall:

- Ahmet Davutoğlu entered the hall with his wife Sare. The audience and the delegates in the hall cheered, but the real enthusiasm was probably reserved for President-elect Erdoğan. The organizers geared up the crowd by turning the volume of the music up. It was the live footage of Erdoğan from outside the hall that really enthused the crowd inside - not the announcement of the presenter who said, “We want to see your enthusiasm.”

- There is only one banner carrying a photo in Ankara Arena (above). The banner reads, “Your Way Is Our Way,” and it shows a picture of Davutoğlu right next to Erdoğan. The AK Parti is not looking for a new leader, but for an administrator who can manage the party and the government in the way that Erdoğan shows.

- When Erdoğan starts to speak at the front of the hall, all those inside also liven up. It’s easy to see why Erdoğan doesn’t want to be out of the party agenda: The crowd can only liven up with him. That’s why Erdoğan’s “This is not a farewell” remarks are the ones that drew the loudest applause. It seems that Davutoğlu has a really tough job on his hands.

- Süleyman Soylu, the former head of the Democrat Party (DP), which was a political rival of the AK Parti during its foundation and early period of governance, delivered the opening speech of the convention. Soylu joined the AK Parti in 2012, one year after it netted just under 50 percent of the votes in the parliamentary election, and even his positioning indicates that “the cause of the AK Parti” has turned into “the cause of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.” Some politicians who have “dedicated a life” to the cause are now watching the convention silently.

- With the air-conditioning at the Ankara Arena, filled with thousands of participants, failing to defeat the August sun, Emine Erdoğan used her fan to try to cool down herself and the elected-president Erdoğan. Journalists in the “press tribune” of the venue, meanwhile, used the congress program brochure on their desks as fans, while jokingly saying “sweating press” to each other, in reference to Erdoğan’s pledge to become a  “sweating president” active in many issues.

- In the first half of Erdoğan’s speech, Ali Babacan, the deputy prime minister responsible for the economy, was the only Cabinet member mentioned beside Ahmet Davutoğlu. Does this indicate that Babacan will remain as the head of the economy in the next government? Of course, the finance minister, the Central Bank governor and whether or not interest rates will fall sharply in accordance with Erdoğan’s demand are also important, but all eyes are now on Babacan. This will become clear when Davutoğlu announces his Cabinet on Friday.

- Davutoğlu's speech had a high pitch not only in terms of history and ideology, but also with its tone of excitement and lofty rhetoric. An important political message ran throughout it: There will not be a conflict between the president and the prime minister, who are both elected by popular vote. In fact, Erdoğan will be a president who received more votes than the government. Davutoğlu is fully aware that he is now shouldering a heavy burden and complete harmony between the president and the government will be needed to avoid disruptions.