How do Erdoğan and Gülen view each other?
The public does not yet know what the “community” (cemaat) actually is and who is running them. According to some, this group is in a power struggle with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party); according to others, it is a mysterious organization. As a matter of fact, we cannot say that even the AK Party knows what the community really is.
It is a nongovernmental organization (NGO).
It is made up of individuals who have extremely strong ties with each other, who support each other enormously and where each individual who has received support contributes back with their “service.”
The community does not run for government. It is not involved in power struggles.
On the other hand, it supports political parties that are in line with its own principles. Thus, it makes its power felt. It shares power to a certain extent.
When you speak to both sides, you understand that the relationship between the community and the AK Party is not always in full accordance, as often assumed.
The community puts a distance between itself and the AK Party on many issues. When making comparisons, it more or less compares Fetullah Gülen and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Its members openly express their discomfort especially with Erdoğan’s recent elevation to “one man” status, as well as his use of harsh language. They bombard their criticisms and compare the non-exaggerating attitude of Fethullah Gülen who, in contrast, is extremely modest.
Those from the community see members of the AK Party as introverted, extremely nationalist, and of a small-town mentality. In contrast, they emphasize that they themselves are extroverts, a group that thinks more internationally.
The community generally regards AK Party members as pious people. But they also state that party members are way behind them in such aspects as the significance attributed to religious values, lifestyle, social aid, friendship and “service.”
The community also thinks that the AK Party is now short of breath on such topics as democracy, the Kurdish issue and the independence of the judiciary, and it thinks the party has lost ground compared to its initial stance. They emphasize that they themselves demonstrate a much more democratic stance.
AK Party has not been able to decode the community yet
The AK Party, on the other hand, has not yet decided on how to define the Gülen community. On the one hand they are happy with the support they are receiving, but they also have an opinion that the community has gone too far in sharing power. They are surprised that the community, which has been silent most of the time in the past, is now raising its voice; and they react to this.
The AK Party does not regard the community as an NGO. It has not fully decoded its domestic power equilibriums and its decision-making process. For example, according to the prime ministry, a significant portion of the judiciary is under the influence of the community. For its part, the community absolutely refuses this.
The AK Party does not regard the group as a political threat against them, as they have no leader other than Gülen.
It is possible to extend this list.
As a result, the Gülen-Erdoğan coalition is not quite as it is publicly regarded. They neither have an arm-in-arm intimate association, nor will they break up tomorrow and search for other coalitions. They may have differences of opinion from time to time and even clash openly, but sooner or later, in the end, they will continue to cohabit as they need each other.