Loyalty to the AK Parti, loyalty to Erdoğan
Yesterday, on May 8, President Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech to his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Parti) parliamentary group was broadcast live on all national TV stations, as usual. While watching it was very noticeable that despite cheering and slogans chanted by party supporters visiting Ankara from different parts of Anatolia, most MPs’ faces, including a number of ministers, were downcast as Erdoğan stressed that AK Parti governments still have a lot to do.
I asked a number of sources within the party who are close to developments. One said this interpretation “must be just the way you wanted to see it.” But another suggested that this scene was “perhaps because not many are sure whether they will be put on candidate lists by Erdoğan for the next parliament, or whether they will keep their posts in the cabinet.”
Many heavyweight names who have been with Erdoğan from day one have opted to not reapply to become MP candidates ahead of the snap June 24 election. These figures include former prime minister and foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, former parliamentary speaker and justice minister Cemil Çiçek, former economy minister and foreign minister Ali Babacan, former interior minister and the mastermind of the Kurdish dialogue program Beşir Atalay, and former parliamentary speaker and deputy PM Bülent Arınç, who was a member of the AK Parti’s founding triumvirate along with Erdoğan and former president, prime minister and foreign minister Abdullah Gül. Gül recently said he would not run for presidency again, after speculation that he could be named as a joint opposition candidate, while denying that his decision has anything to do with an earlier visit to his Istanbul office by Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın.
There are actually not many names left from the AK Parti’s founding team still in effective positions in Erdoğan’s government. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Forestry and Water Minister Veysel Eroğlu and presidential adviser Burhan Kuzu are among the few survivors.
Erdoğan says he wants new and young men and women to join the AK Parti ranks, which is natural for a country with a relatively young population. There might be another reason behind Erdoğan’s preference, as he seems to prefer continuing his long walk with a generation that has opened its eyes in politics with him, who do not know any leader other than Erdoğan, and who have no political history or background before Erdoğan.
As a result, shared ideological and political values binding party members together is likely to be replaced by loyalty to the leader, who is seen as representing in himself an ideology and political stance.
There may be some other factors bothering some of the current AK Parti members. The party’s alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the nationalist-Islamist Great Unity Party (BBP) has the potential to further alienate Kurdish voters from the AK Parti. It also means some precious places in candidate lists will go to names from those parties, which in the absence of such an alliance would have difficulty entering parliament.
But perhaps my impression from watching Erdoğan’s parliamentary speech on TV was wrong and there really is nothing wrong internally in the AK Parti. We may find out on the night of the snap election.