The ‘delicate’ relationship between Erdoğan and Davutoğlu

The ‘delicate’ relationship between Erdoğan and Davutoğlu

In 107 days’ time we will know the results of the elections. The agenda of the next 106 days will be the elections. Well, what about the agenda of the elections?

According to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the agenda of the elections is the presidential system. Erdoğan wants the voter to decide whether or not to transform Turkey into a presidential system.

According to Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu agrees with him on this issue. He also defends the presidential system and he will bring it up during the campaign.  However, up until today, we have not heard strong arguments for the presidential system from Davutoğlu himself. He has said that one of the election pledges of his party would be a new constitution based on freedoms and the separation of powers, adding that the presidential system would be debated “in this context.”

Delicate relations

Is there or isn’t there a distinct difference and some kind of a “conflict” between Erdoğan and Davutoğlu on setting the agenda for the elections, and, if they are won, determining priorities and developing policies after the elections?

Those who know the president-prime minister relationship closely describe the relationship as “delicate.” But there is also a very close relationship and cooperation. A journalist colleague has calculated that the two have spent 14 hours together over the past 30 days, at least 10 hours alone.

Well, do the two leaders talk about these matters of tension openly in their one-on-one meetings? Nobody other than them knows the answer to this question.

In recent weeks, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) held long meetings to “determine the election strategy.” It has made a series of decisions. Among them is, “Refraining from making the presidential system become the main theme of the campaign agenda; instead strongly defending the new constitution.”

According to the survey results published by daily Sabah the other day, 60 percent of the population is aware of the presidential system debate, and 70 percent supports the presidential system. (According to this calculation, 42 percent of the population supports the presidential system.) 

This matter has been asked about in AK Party surveys. The support for the presidential system, which was previously 30 percent, has climbed to 44 percent.

Will it be the presidential system or Erdoğan that will be voted on in these elections? This is a situation, however, that AK Party brains also draw attention to: The presidential system is being discussed within the parameters of Erdoğan’s personality, easily transforming it into the “I like/dislike Erdoğan” polarization.

The trend that stood out in the AK Party’s strategy meetings was that downgrading the elections into “Love vs. hate Erdoğan” would have a restricting effect on the party’s possible gains. According to this viewpoint, those who vote with the love of Erdoğan naturally vote for the AK Party. The party therefore does not need to do anything extra to attract these votes. However, the projects that Davutoğlu will announce, and his performance during the election campaign, could add votes on top of this “Erdoğan love.”

On the morning of June 8

At this point, we come to the “delicate” place in the Erdoğan-Davutoğlu relationship. The party brains think, on the one hand, that the impression of a difference of opinion or conflict between the two should not be permitted. However, if the AK Party wins the elections then Davutoğlu will be a “leader” on the morning of June 8.

In the event that the AK Party wins 331 or more seats in parliament, it will immediately start writing a new constitution that will most probably introduce the presidential system. So will the presidential system be the main theme of the campaign? There are two important factors in this, the first is the fact that Erdoğan will hold rallies and deliver town square speeches until May, repeatedly putting forward the presidential system.

The second is that campaigning is a dynamic process and the AK Party is constantly holding the pulse of the voter. If the presidential system is supported substantially by the voter, then the party will not be indifferent to this fact and will likely shift the axis of its campaign.

The 107 days have started.