Time for a new story
The Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) extraordinary convention took place over the weekend in Ankara. Surprisingly, even the most avid party followers, Erdoğanists and loyalist AK Party columnists seemed to lack the excitement and euphoria that had rocked the halls. Is the party getting old? Not just physically but mentally? President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to have found the cure for the former, but the latter is a bigger problem.
The AK Party reunited with Erdoğan but he was never gone anyway. Meanwhile, the party decided to change its bylaws, loosened the third-term rule and adopted the four-finger Rabia sign as its motto, just like the six arrows of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The Central Executive Board (MKYK) elections and the war of lists started to look more like the conventions of the CHP. Social media was full of criticism and support for the young members of the MKYK. Even the posters and visuals of the convention looked a bit old and traditional. Really, are these the true signs of reform and change?
Dr. Güven Gürkan Öztan from Marmara University wrote in daily BirGün that the AK Party’s probability of creating a “new story” is impossible. “The only cause,” he wrote, “is securing the future of the present regime. The only thing that remains is to infiltrate into areas of secularism by force and conquer the lifestyles that are not dominated by political Islam.” Öztan believes that Erdoğan’s insistence on the continuation of the state of emergency is solely dependent on these factors.
Last week, a former prosecutor on the Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay), Dr. Ruşen Gültekin, echoed a similar argument on CNN Türk. “He is never going to yield his power. The state of emergency will be extended until the 2019 elections until Erdoğan is in full control,” he said. Erdoğan’s open criticism of business leaders at the Turkish Business and Industry Association (TÜSİAD) and his angry remarks about not lifting the state of emergency prove his critics right. But then again, the world seems to be happy about it. Foreign investors are so comfortably numb about the opposition being crushed on the streets, people getting randomly arrested, or papers like Sözcü and Cumhuriyet being kept under constant threat of being shut down or taken over. But Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakca’s silent and modest hunger strike is slowly boiling into big social unrest, receiving support from conservative circles that have suffered from the purge and lost their jobs.
The AK Party is running out of steam and sadly even if they do five conventions every year like the CHP used to do, the message is clear. There is no new story to be told. That is why you cannot sell a “New Turkey” to the outside world for two more years unless you lift the state of emergency. Getting foreign investment, attracting business but even more, acquiring credibility in Western capitals, is an urgency for Erdogan and his team.
That is why the Hürriyet Daily News’ Murat Yetkin’s articles about something quickly happening around November or even earlier sound more like the real thing. Erdoğan may be gearing up for a snap parliamentary election to catch the opposition unguarded, as this may be his last chance to get the majority he wants.
2019 may be a dream too far for a new AK Party story. The Audacity of Hope is on the other side.