Mr. Davutoğlu vs. Prime Minister Davutoğlu: How much longer?

Mr. Davutoğlu vs. Prime Minister Davutoğlu: How much longer?

The answer to the question in the title can come in many different ways, the simplest being, “until either Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu or Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu defeats the other for good.” No doubt, until that moment - if it ever arrives - Mr. Davutoğlu and Prime Minister Davutoğlu will have to fight one of the world’s most violent “mental civil” wars.

Mr. Davutoğlu’s most strategic weapon to defeat Prime Minister Davutoğlu in this bizarre war is also the latter’s biggest disadvantage: Mr. Davutoğlu’s personal integrity. On the other hand, Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s most strategic weapon is Mr. Davutoğlu’s ideological weakness: his commitment - “until we die!” - to the “dawa,” or the cause, whatever it may mean to outsiders of the never-ending Islamist problem with the rest of the world, including non-Islamist Muslims.

This column on Nov. 21, 2014, opened with these lines:

“No doubt, Ahmet Davutoğlu the human being is an honest, hard-working and modest man of academia. There are increasing signs that his struggle as head of the Turkish executive will not be against, as he mysteriously puts it, “those [enemies] who envy Turkey’s success story in the last 12 years. In reality, Mr. Davutoğlu’s inner struggle is probably against Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.” (“Mr. Davutoğlu vs. Prime Minister Davutoğlu” – Nov. 21, 2014)

By then, Mr. Davutoğlu’s strongly-worded objection to a planned system of paid exemption from military service had already bounced back from the tall walls guarding President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s palace. In less than a month, Mr. Davutoğlu had to travel between “[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” to signing a bill that regulated a system where the poor boy is drafted and the son of the rich man is exempted because he can pay for it.

Then, Mr. Davutoğlu declared war on extravagance in the public sector and a few days later had to sign papers for Mr. Erdoğan’s $800 million bill for a palace and a new jet. More recently, Mr. Davutoğlu, grudgingly - and quietly - had to shelve what is publicly known as the “transparency package,” a bill that bravely aimed to bring senior party officials and members of the judiciary to account if their personal wealth rose inexplicably. The suspension of the draft bill came a few days after President Erdoğan spoke against it.   

Then came President Erdoğan’s heavy hand over Mr. (not Prime Minister) Davutoğlu’s push to send to the Supreme Court the three cabinet ministers implicated in the Dec. 17-25, 2013, corruption investigation. If acquitted at the top court, the former ministers could return to politics. But Mr. Davutoğlu’s move would have been good for the party, for Turkey’s increasingly filthy politics and for Turkey. Sadly, once again, the effort hit the walls of the presidential palace.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Davutoğlu crashed into the wall yet again when his push for the Turkish spymaster’s run for parliament turned into an embarrassing episode. And most recently, we have had Mr. Davutoğlu (and his men) versus Prime Minister Davutoğlu (and Mr. Erdoğan’s men) in an ostensibly more trivial issue: which modality should be pursued to progress in the Kurdish peace process.

On Nov. 21, 2014, “Mr. Davutoğlu vs. Prime Minister Davutoğlu,” closed with this line: “Turkey would have been a much better place to live in if Mr. Davutoğlu had defeated Prime Minister Davutoğlu.”

The odds are against that. Mr. Davutoğlu’s biggest weakness (and Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s most strategic asset) is his blind commitment to the “dawa.” Moreover, which sane mind today can risk being tagged as a “Gülenist?” The day Mr. Davutoğlu has defeated Prime Minister Davutoğlu, the usual confrontational and angry voice from higher up will yell: “Ah, we have been betrayed again by those traitors belonging to the parallel structure! Hey, Davutoğlu! I gave you everything you wanted. And you have betrayed the dawa…”

Hearts are with Mr. Davutoğlu; minds predict Prime Minister Davutoğlu will defeat him - hoping to be wrong.