‘People shouldn’t ask AKP where you found that thief’

‘People shouldn’t ask AKP where you found that thief’

“When the new lists are going to be announced,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan told local executives of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Aug. 7 in the Black sea province of Trabzon. “No one should tell us ‘Where did you find this thief?’ about them. We must be very careful about this issue,” he said. 

Erdoğan gave the bold message to his grassroots while preparing them for radical changes within the party structure in order to secure his re-election in November 2019, when the next presidential election is scheduled to be held together with the parliamentary vote. “As the chairman of the party, I am resolute to do that,” Erdoğan said in his hometown Rize the same day. “We have to renew ourselves thoroughly, taking the opportunity of our general congress,” he added. All local party congresses are to be completed by the end of February 2018 after which a general congress is expected to be held for another change in the upper echelons of the party, which has experienced change in the May emergency congress anyway.

“If we cannot make this change happen,” Erdoğan said in his Trabzon speech, “our job will be much more difficult in the local elections [of March-April 2019], in the presidential elections and in the parliamentary elections. We have to do this.”

While addressing local AK Party executives in the neighboring Giresun, he said all of his ministers, MPs, mayors and party officials should leave “arrogance” aside, “act humbly when approaching people” and should put the “interests of their party and the country before their own interests.” Erdoğan asked them to “empower the chairs they sit on, not to take power from their chairs.”

It is interesting that Erdoğan gave those strong messages on his Black Sea tour, where he is the strongest and expects to receive lesser reaction from the grassroots. Yet, when in Giresun, he asked the local party organization to increase the share of women and young people on their executive bodies, the elderly men sitting on the protocol chairs, which are allocated to prominent party figures, had long faces.

In the three consecutive speeches by Erdoğan in Rize, Trabzon and Giresun, it was possible to extract seven principles that he was keen not to see in the next AK party structure in order to not lose ground in the local and parliamentary elections and also to get re-elected in 2019. Those can be summarized as follows:

1- Not to have “any involvement in the betrayal,” which means the network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher accused of masterminding the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt,

2- Not to have any involvement in corruption cases, as a reference to “Where did you find this thief?” question,

3- Not to be a part of any “groups or factions” within the party,

4- Not to abuse the power taken from the offices of the party or the municipality of the government they work for,

5- Not to look down on people because of the chairs they occupy,

6- Not to give priority to one’s own interests before the interest of the party and the country,

7- Not to block the participation of young members and women in party bodies.

From a different perspective, it is interesting that those are the defects that Erdoğan diagnosed in the party that he established, which is set to mark its 16th anniversary on Aug. 14. Erdoğan thinks it would be “very difficult” for the AK Party to win the elections (where a 50 percent plus 1 vote will be needed) with its current executives at all levels. By getting into micro-management, Erdoğan could prefer a younger generation committed to his administrative principles rather than ideological roots in order to achieve his political goal.