Mr Davutoğlu vs Prime Minister Davutoğlu: A draw

Mr Davutoğlu vs Prime Minister Davutoğlu: A draw

Had they come across each other as ideological adversaries, Ahmet Davutoğlu could have been one of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political nemeses – had Mr. Davutoğlu’s devotion not been to anything other than the “dawa,” the Islamist political cause. His blind, romantic commitment to the dawa keeps him loyal to the man who, he believes, has advanced political Islam in Turkey and the former Ottoman lands, well, despite his excesses here and there. Therefore, disloyalty to that man will mean disloyalty to the dawa which, then, will mean a denial of his own raison d’être.  

That is why many observers who thought that Mr. Davutoğlu’s war against Prime Minister Davutoğlu – in this columnist’s wording back in November 2014 – would either end up in victory or defeat. In fact, his eternal commitment to the dawa meant that there was a third option: A draw. Mr. Davutoğlu’s graceful exit from a realm he did not belong to, other than his Islamist ambitions, sealed his honesty along with his naïve commitment to the idea of “dawa über alles.”

For about 20 months, Mr. Davutoğlu had to fight one of the world’s most violent “mental civil wars,” having, constantly, to zigzag between his innocent self and the “dawa über alles.” He was always under the spotlight, sometimes perhaps annoying his boss too much. He was the unlucky man of a losing or, rather, not winning, war. Hence, the draw.  

The incompatibility between Mr. Davutoğlu and Prime Minister Davutoğlu was all too transparent even in the early days of his rise to the theoretical seat of prime minister. Barely two-and-a-half months into the job, on Oct. 17, 2014, Mr. Davutoğlu, the fair-minded human being, said the system of paid exemption from military service would be halted because it was unfair. (“We cannot allow a system where the poor boy is drafted and the son of the rich man is exempted because he can pay for it,” said Mr. Davutoğlu the human being.) 

On Nov. 15, Davutoğlu the prime minister said: “There is significant demand for paid exemption [from conscription]. We are assessing the situation in view of producing a solution for the hundreds of thousands of citizens who have passed beyond the practicable age of conscription.”

What may have happened in a span of 28 days? What may have made him swallow his powerful words on what is fair and what is not? Everyone knew the answer, including, eventually, Mr. Davutoğlu.  

All the same his childish optimism that “he would one day unite the ummah under the imperial Turkish banner” kept up Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s fight against Mr. Davutoğlu. For his part, Mr. Davutoğlu had to endure the inner torment of declaring war on public extravaganza one day, and having to sign papers the next day for his boss’s $800 million bill for a palace and a new jet.  

But why the torment? Dawa über alles: “I am a gift for the advancement of Turkey. To further advance my goals I must remain the prime minister. To remain the prime minister I must ignore relatively minor practices that both ethically and religiously go against my other self,” said Davutoğlu the human being. After all, what my beloved country will gain from my premiership will be immeasurably more than a few things going wrong or unfair.”

As Dexter Filkins wrote in the New Yorker after Mr/Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s decision to quit: “It’s an old story: the loyal satrap, who makes a career for himself by faithfully snarling at his master’s critics, finally gets thrown overboard himself.” That’s true. From the first day, Mr. Davutoğlu campaigned – especially in two elections last year – for votes to end his own political career. Ironically, he succeeded.  

Mr. Filkins says that we should not shed too many tears for Mr. Davutoğlu. Maybe. But we can shed some tears because his farewell is not good news for Turkey.