Erdoğan tells the world who’s the boss in Turkey

Erdoğan tells the world who’s the boss in Turkey

Following the quick and a bit sad stepping down of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on May 6 that there will be no turning back from his target of shifting from a parliamentarian system to strong presidential system.

That is the clearest message so far since the debates over a presidential system started in 2010 during the constitutional amendments referendum. Erdoğan also said he wanted to go to the people for that shift, which would need 330 votes in the 550-seat parliament. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) is some 14 votes short of that. Davutoğlu has been saying that because of his understanding of political ethics, he was not going to attempt to attract votes from other parties, particularly the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has a series of internal problems.  

It seems instead of going to an early election in order to close the gap, Erdoğan might encourage the new leader of the AK Parti, who is to be elected in an emergency party congress on May 22, to convince other members of parliament to vote for a new constitution draft based on a presidential system and spare his energy to go to a poll to a referendum.

This is a clear message to whom it may concern in Turkey about who is the boss in the government, and in the AK Parti as well. After gently pushing aside former President Abdullah Gül in order to curb the enthusiasm of those who might look for a potential leader alternative thanks to Ahmet Davutoğlu, whom he handpicked to succeed him, Erdoğan now thinks the path for the presidency is cleared with no potential name in sight to lead the AK Parti and thus the government.

That is also a very clear message to the outer world to show who the boss is in Turkey. From U.S. President Barack Obama to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, from the United Nations to the European Union and international finance institutions, Erdoğan is sending the message that there is one and only one address to talk to in Turkey and that is the president, himself. It is a matter of speculation in the back stage of Ankara that Davutoğlu cutting a deal with the EU on immigration by modifying it at the eleventh hour and his request to visit the U.S. and meet Obama only a month after Erdoğan did were examples of Davutoğlu making Erdoğan unhappy about overshadowing the president’s power. The first foreign policy message of Erdoğan on May 6, in the same statement, shows that tone as well. 

Pointing to the statements from the EU about a condition for Turkey to change its anti-terror law to approve visa-free travel as a part of the immigration deal, “If there is a[n additional] condition, there is no deal” Erdoğan said. “You can go and make a deal [with] whoever you like.”

Being elected with 52 percent of the votes in 2014, against 49.5 percent for the AK Parti in 2015, Erdoğan says he is not happy with the dual executive power system in the constitution as another reason to shift to a presidential one, in which executive power would be centralized in the president’s hands with lesser checks-and-balances.