The donkey rider who deserves a horse

The donkey rider who deserves a horse

For the opponents of the (somehow) ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), (somehow) Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s post-election speech must have been a relief. Speaking at the peak of his voice to a crowd of party fans - who must have watched Election 2011, not 2015 – Mr. Davutoğlu, as usual, roared with the words “the ‘dawa’ [Islamic cause],” and “our holy march,” the destination of which was unspecified but known from earlier thundering speeches. Then he gave the real good news to secular Turks: “We’ll continue on our path in a more determined way.” This may mean a mere 30 percent plus vote for the AKP in five years’ time. 

The first words that came to Mr. Davutoğlu’s mind in a speech to fans were “dawa” and “our holy march,” at a moment when his party had lost its parliamentary majority and the power to form a single-party government for the first time in nearly 13 years. 

No doubt, Mr. Davutoğlu was trying to keep his party supporters’ morale and spirits as high as possible under the (bad) circumstances. No doubt, either, he was trying to calculate, with the meticulousness of the academician he once was, to restructure his party, to cleanse it of corrupt politicians and their business cronies and finally to make a hero’s comeback in the next elections. 

Perhaps he is aware, or maybe not, that the biggest obstacle to any plan Mr. Davutoğlu could be making other than retirement is not the secular opposition he has been fighting like a Muslim Crusader. The biggest obstacle to his plans is the unhappiest man in town since June 7… The man who arrogantly rode his chivalric horse while Mr. Davutoğlu followed him behind on a donkey, just like in a Spanish canonical novel from the early 17th century. 

Mr. Davutoğlu should be able to understand that the days of easy vote-catching using “our dawa,” “our holy march,” “conquest of Quds,” “our soon-to-be-prayers in Damascus” and “our brothers in the former Ottoman lands” are just passé. So is the fake “us-good-Muslims-against-infidels-and-imperialists” posture. To restructure his party, Mr. Davutoğlu should first restructure his own thinking. No more glory days for dream merchants. 

To start with, Mr. Davutoğlu should understand the only certain loser of the bad night that was June 7 was not himself. He may have even been privately smiling as he read updates on the election results. If so, that may be good news. But if the caretaker prime minister remains devoted to a holy path that will only offer a lose-lose option to himself, his political rivals and to Turkey, he should rethink this. 

Upon his elevation to the seat of the prime minister last year, this column said that Mr. Davutoğlu could be President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “unwilling gift to Turkey.” He still can be, though not with a stubborn devotion to his younger years’ illusions of supreme Sunni-Ottoman-Turkish grandeur. 

Anyone would hate to be Mr. Davutoğlu on the dreadful night that was June 7. But anyone would prefer to be him instead of Mr. Erdoğan on the dreadful night that was June 7. If he can miraculously unchain himself from “the dawa and our holy march” and a thousand other ridiculously-sounding themes of political banality he can be a genuine asset for the country he loves. That may be too much to hope from him, but also too little from an exceptionally honest man who for years was forced to cohabit with someone for the sake of “dawa.”

Mr. Davutoğlu should not give up on trying to be an asset to the country he loves. He should give up on the wrong path he ideologically has chosen to be an asset to the country he loves. No doubt, it is a pity that he remains more devoted to Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna than to Rumi. 

What this column last year coined as “Mr. Davutoğlu vs. Prime Minister Davutoğlu” has taken an even more interesting take since June 7. Sadly, it still remains that Mr. Davutoğlu will likely lose against Prime Minister Davutoğlu.