Metal fatigue or spring fatigue?

Metal fatigue or spring fatigue?

“Esteemed President,” said Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım toward the end to his speech at the Aug. 14 ceremony celebrating the 16th anniversary of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in Ankara, “in recent speeches you have mentioned ‘metal fatigue’ in our [party] organization. But I believe this fatigue will pass away as quickly as spring fatigue. May our hearts not get tired. May our unity and togetherness never be broken. Your return to your home [the AK Parti] in order to lead us is a unique excitement for us. We are a great and strong party.”

These words of praise, as if quoted from a Shakespeare play, are so far the only objections made to President Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistent push over the past weeks demanding a radical restructuring in the organization of the AK Parti. He wants this restructuring to be carried out from local townships to metropolitan municipalities, from party executive bodies to the party group in parliament.

Yıldırım used the mildest and most non-antagonizing tone possible, as Erdoğan was waiting for his turn to take the floor during the prime minister’s speech. Obviously he does not want to carry out an internal discussion in front of the public, but his words perhaps suggested that the process would not be as smooth as Erdoğan envisages. It may even have a negative effect on the ruling party’s “unity and togetherness” and perhaps also its “strength.” 

If we want to try some Cold War-style “Kremlinology” about the current Turkish government, it may be possible to interpret what Yıldırım was saying to Erdoğan as follows:

* Your remarks about “metal [or material] fatigue” and “professional deformation,” criticizing a lack of enthusiasm in the party organization, are offending people. It is natural to criticize the work of the government after 15 years in power, but the AK Parti is still the biggest party in Turkey and it is possible to inspire people again with the right kind of leadership.  

 * Your return to the AK Parti – following the April referendum and after you were re-elected as party chairman on May 21 - has endorsed your authority as the sole power in the party. You do not need to send experienced and politically loyal cadres away in order to continue with people who do not have any political history. 

* If you, as our leader, want to make changes in the party, clearing it of Gülenist elements, corrupt mayors, corrupt party officials, and inept members of parliament, then we are all ready to assist you. But please do not turn this into a kind of liquidation. That could break many hearts, causing ideologically committed people to get demoralized and ultimately withdraw from party work.

Erdoğan took the floor after Yıldırım completed his speech and repeated his belief in the need for a radical restructuring of the AK Parti. The current level of support, he said, may be enough for the AK Parti to remain Turkey’s largest party, but it will not secure the 50-percent-plus-one-vote necessary to keep all power in hand, or for Erdoğan to get re-elected with a clear path in the next elections, scheduled for 2019.

It is not clear yet whether Erdoğan will take heed of Yıldırım’s mild and gentle criticism, moderating his plan to radically restructure the AK Parti. But at least the possible drawbacks of such a plan have been publicly voiced by his number two man.