Erdoğan’s irresistible rise to becoming Turkey’s sole ruler

Erdoğan’s irresistible rise to becoming Turkey’s sole ruler

Perhaps some of you have already seen the footage given by Turkish TV stations. The photo in the front page of today’s Hürriyet Daily News tells enough as well.

The incident took place during the ceremony to mark the 146th anniversary of the Turkish Council of State in Ankara on May 10. Traditionally, following the opening speech of the head of Council of State (Danıştay), the head of the Union of Bar Associations (TBB) delivers a speech and usually raises the problems of lawyers and touches on legal issues.

So, right after the speech of Danıştay Chairwoman Zerrin Güngör, Metin Feyzioğlu took the floor for the TBB. He is a young professor of law with unhidden ambitions for the social democratic opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

It is true that his speech was longer than expected. What was not expected was Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s outburst in the 55th minute (as Feyzioğlu was wrapping it up) from his seat next to President Abdullah Gül in the front row.

Erdoğan interrupted Feyzioğlu’s sentence as he was expressing his hopes that presidential elections in August would produce a president who can embrace all of the population.

“Don’t be rude,” Erdoğan said, raising his voice. “I’m not being rude,” Feyzioğlu replied. “Mr. Prime Minister, I am not doing anything rude. There is nothing rude in my speech.”

Erdoğan stood up, “You are giving political messages.” Feyzioğlu replied. “There are no political messages in my speech; it is a constructive one.”

Erdoğan, taking two steps toward the podium, repeated with hand gestures, reminding many of his “one minute” reaction against Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2009 in Davos: “Don’t be rude. Plus, what you have said about the Van earthquake is a lie.” Feyzioğlu, keeping his – now artificial – smile on his face, replies: “I don’t find it proper for myself to call anybody rude.”

By this time, Gül, Güngör and Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel have all stood up. Gül tries to hold the arm of his long-time fellow Erdoğan and calm him down.

Of course, Gül was in additional difficulty. According to protocol, the president enters the room the latest and leaves first. Gül understood that Erdoğan was about to leave, violating protocol and presidential reputation, and tried in vain to stop him.

But Erdoğan turns to Gül and Özel, showing his watch and saying: “Chairwoman Güngör talked for 25 minutes, but the man has been talking for an hour now.” Gül once again tries to bring him back, but Erdoğan makes a gesture to Gül, indicating, “Let’s go together,” and Gül, Özel and Güngör follow him out, as Feyzioğlu remains at the rostrum, waiting to complete his remarks.

(Incidentally, Güngör later said Feyzioğlu’s political remarks made some Danıştay members uncomfortable as well, while some pro-government papers used the ‘one minute’ theme against the “black-robed ones” this time, in reference to the standard outfit of judges, prosecutors and lawyers.)
The last words of Erdoğan as he was leaving the conference room were: “You keep silence and listen up to a certain point. It’s enough already.”

Perhaps that was in reference to the incident two weeks ago, on April 25, during the anniversary ceremony for the Constitutional Court, when Court President Haşim Kılıç had strong criticism for the Erdoğan government’s approach to the justice system. Erdoğan had stayed in the room until the end of the speech but later on slammed the judge.

Perhaps, his tolerance was exhausted in being in a protocol position, listening to all the criticism from the men and women of the law. And he decided not to take that any longer.

Nevertheless, Erdoğan has made it clear that he doesn’t want to hear any cracked voice, any bit of criticism about his doings as he keeps going for the presidency.

But his latest stance has started to give indications that Erdoğan’s “Winner takes all” understanding is not limited to the executive power; he wants no checks and balances over his authority as well. He really wants all of it.