Ruling AKP turns inward as problems mount in Turkey

Ruling AKP turns inward as problems mount in Turkey

Here is a brief list of what happened as May Day began in Turkey: 

In the Syrian border province of Gaziantep, a car bomb went off in front of the main police station, killing two police officers. The city was recently visited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk, who praised its treatment of migrants. Police suspect that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants carried out the attack.

In the Syrian border town of Nusaybin, militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who killed an army captain in an ambush one day before on April 30, killed three more soldiers and wounded 14 others.

The Syrian border town of Kilis was once again hit by rockets fired by ISIL militants. The number of people killed by ISIL rockets over the last few weeks in Kilis currently numbers 18. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition forces hit an alleged ISIL bomb manufacturing facility in Dabiq, near Aleppo, with a UAV that took off from Turkey’s İncirlik base.

Ankara police sources said they arrested four ISIL suspects allegedly preparing to attack a May Day rally in the capital city. Previously, an ISIL suicide attack on a peace rally in Ankara on Oct. 10, 201 killed 103 people.

In Istanbul, a man died as a police water canon vehicle hit him in the central Taksim area, which was closed to public demonstrations and traffic for May Day. Trade unions had agreed with the government to hold their May Day rally in the Bakırköy district, where the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is in power, due to security concerns.

Today, on May 2, EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkır expects parliament to approve a draft bill as the last item of a series of benchmarks to fulfill the European Commission’s requirements by May 4 to suggest giving visa-free travel rights to Turkish citizens, as part of the Turkey-EU deal to control migration into EU countries, as triggered by the Syria civil war. Visa-free travel will be an important step to revitalizing Turkey-EU relations.
Again on May 2, President Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to once again convene the cabinet at the presidential compound in the Beştepe district of Ankara. 

However, all the attention of Turkey’s political backstage will be focused on something other than the mounting problems I have listed.

That is because on April 29, the Central Executive Board (MKYK) of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) took away the power of appointing and dissolving provincial organizations from Prime Minister and AK Parti Chair Ahmet Davutoğlu. It was reported that a petition over the issue was signed by 47 of 50 members of the board when Davutoğlu was on his trip to Qatar. In the meantime, it was also announced that plans for a possible trip by Davutoğlu to the U.S. - where he was supposed to meet with President Barack Obama, who recently met with President Erdoğan – has been postponed.

AK Parti spokesman Ömer Çelik said Davutoğlu himself had signed the decision, so there was/is no crisis in the party. Çelik’s words came amid speculation that the move was a step by Erdoğan to curb Davutoğlu’s powers. The would amount to another step toward his target of changing Turkey to a presidential system, which Erdoğan hopes will give complete executive power to the president. According to speculations, the move raises the hand of Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım, who is close to Erdoğan and was mentioned as a potential candidate against Davutoğlu at the last AK Parti congress in September 2015.

Davutoğlu said on April 27 that there was “no rush” to write the new constitution that Erdoğan seeks to use to shift to a presidential system. Erdoğan also recently publicly criticized the Turkey-EU deal, which was devised by Davutoğlu, while he was on board the plane to Brussels to finalize the accord with Merkel and EU leaders.

It would perhaps be going too far to expect Davutoğlu to leave his post for a successor hand-picked by Erdoğan. But it’s clear that as problems mount in the country, Erdoğan and the ruling AK Parti are turning inward in pursuit of endorsing a one-voice policy line.