The message given to Ankara Mayor Gökçek
The demand for “change” left its mark on the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) camp in the western province of Afyonkarahisar. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dedicated the opening and closing speeches of the camp to “change.” He hinted at change by saying, “This is a demand from our nation. If we do not do it ourselves, our people will do it in the elections.”
Erdoğan is determined about change, because the examples of the Motherland Party (ANAP) and the True Path Party (DYP) stand before him: They did not do the change themselves and were forced to leave by the nation in the elections. At a period, when former President Turgut Özal left the presidency in Çankaya in order to build a new party, former ANAP members had visited him to revive ANAP. But Özal had said, “Parties are born; they grow and die. ANAP has died, now it is time to establish a ‘new party.’” The party’s name was the “New Party” and its leader was his brother, Yusuf Özal.
Erdoğan grounds on the results of the June 7, 2015 parliamentary elections and the April 16 referendum elections. His words “our nation gave us very clear messages on June 7” points at this fact. Therefore, he pushed the button for change on the evening of April 16. He first realized the change within the party and the government. The AKP was renewing 60-65 percent of its deputies, 25 percent of the local administrations, and 65-70 percent of the organizations in the elections. But this time, the demand for change turned into a life-or-death issue for the AKP. If the AKP emerges out of this change process period successfully, it will continue to exist in Turkey’s future.
If the change in the AKP is only confined to the renewal of the team, it cannot be very strong. Because when the nation asks for change, they do not mean only the provincial heads or the mayors. The link for change in the party’s team must also be strengthened with the change in speeches and policies.
Fine, but what will Erdoğan do if the mayors he demands to be changed resist? He knows he will lose if he holds the elections with the names he wants changed. Therefore, he says, “We will hold the elections with those who we will win with.” On the April 16 referendum, he saw that mayors played a role in the decline of votes. Thus, Erdoğan warned, “If we come out of the local elections strong, we can enter the presidential elections with strength and high morale.” Erdoğan does not want to be tripped up in the presidential elections. That’s why he is now already taking precautions. He wants the problem solved in silence and without any events. But Erdoğan never lets the issue reach a point where his leadership would be discussed.
It is said that Erdoğan urged Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek to not prolong the resignation issue for much longer. Gökçek, in return, said it would not be right for him to resign in such a way but instead wanted to stay on duty until the local elections.
Erdoğan is said to list Gökçek’s mistakes, and unless the decline (in supporters) in Ankara is not stopped, there would be a danger of losing the elections. Erdoğan says the need for change is inevitable and states that the rights of Gökçek would be protected. And again repeats to him, “Do not extend this issue much longer.” No commitments are made for those who leave their duties, but if Gökçek succeeds in resigning without creating any problems, it is said that there might be options for him such as the general president principal consultancy for local governments or a deputy candidacy.
After Gökçek, there are two options the party is mulling over: Should there be a high profile name for the metropolitan municipal mayor candidacy in the 2019 elections or a low profile candidate whose loyalty to the party is at the forefront and will be on duty until the elections?
“Leaving by fighting,” was an expression former politician Mümtaz Soysal brought into Turkish politics. But the tradition of the AKP is based on agreements instead of fighting. Erdoğan’s warning is important. Therefore, a chance for an “honorable departure” must be offered to those, Gökçek being in the first place, whose resignations are demanded.