The first book on AKP years: Has Pandora’s Box opened?

The first book on AKP years: Has Pandora’s Box opened?

“President Abdullah Gül did not approve the government’s foreign policy, especially on Syria and Egypt. He thought that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had gone too far by acting as if they were the prime minister and foreign minister of Egypt and Syria, which was against Turkey’s best interests. He (Gül) said this to the face of Davutoğlu a number of times.”

The paragraph is taken from the book “12 years with Abdullah Gül” by Ahmet Sever, who worked his chief press advisor when Gül was serving as the ruling Justice and Development’s Party’s (AK Parti) prime minister, foreign minister and finally president between 2002 and 2014.

This is the first book from within the AK Parti rule during the 12 years of its single handed majority in the Turkish parliament and on the bookstore shelves today, June 15, only a week after the AK Parti’s losing its majority through Turkey’s June 7 elections. Sever says that former president Gül has read and approved his book before being published –“an ethical necessity” says Sever- and asked him to wait until the elections were over to publish it. 

It seems Gül did not want the book to have any effect on the election results and did not want to be blamed by his AK Parti fellows if the results would not be as desired, which actually proved right. But that gives the reader the comfort to assume that Gül has no objection to what was written by Sever.

The paragraph that is quoted above shows the level of deep contradictions within the decision making echelons of the Turkish state on the Syria and Egypt policies of Erdoğan government, while Davutoğlu was the foreign minister. And it seems it continued until Erdoğan was elected as president on August 10, 2014, hand picking Davutoğlu as his successor in both the AK Parti and the government. Sever gives the example of Gül’s “good will, not congratulation” message to Egypt’s Abdel Fettah el-Sisi on June 11, 2014, after Sisi’s election as president was slammed by Erdoğan on June 24, because Sisi had overthrown the elected president Mohamad Morsi. 

Sever writes that Gül desired to make a return to the AK Parti after Erdoğan, with plans to “revive Turkey’s relations with the European Union, correct the mistakes in the foreign policy, moderate the political polarization in the country and send four former minister under corruption allegations to the Supreme Court” but Erdoğan did not let that happen.

The former press advisor also gives details about the four cabinet ministers who had to be removed from office by Erdoğan on December 25, following the opening of two major corruption probes on 17 and 25 Dec., 2013. Sever says Erdoğan wanted to keep former EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış on the cabinet, but Gül insisted that he should also be left out, along with former ministers of the interior Muammer Güler, economy Zafer Çağlayan and urbanization Erdoğan Bayraktar. The parliamentary investigation on all four ministers had been blocked by AK Parti majority votes and is a major debate nowadays before the coalition talks on whether they should be reopened, since the party has lost the majority.

Sever also gives accounts of the Erdoğan-Gül conflict on the Gezi Park protests of June 2013. He makes it public for the first time that Gül’s son Mehmet brought 10 of his friends to the presidential office to tell their point of view about Gezi and the out-of-proportion police reaction to protesters to their “Uncle Abdullah,” which played a positive role on Gül’s rather moderate approach regarding the protesters, which failed against Erdoğan’s hard line.

In the book there are other interesting accounts on Turkey’s major foreign policy issues since 2002 when the AK Parti took power.

Sever writes that the major factor in Gül’s reluctance about opening up Turkish territory for U.S. troops to open a Northern Front to occupy Iraq in March 2003 was a report by General Hilmi Özkök of the Turkish General Staff who said declaration of a state of emergency along the route of the troops was necessary for security. Gül saw it as a step back in Turkey’s democratization moves. Sever admits it was Erdoğan who remained committed to Turkey’s military participation in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, which was not approved by the parliament.

There is the account of a failure regarding a transfer of Syrian Armenians to Turkey. Upon a proposal from within Turkey’s Armenian community, Gül consulted with Erdoğan and instructions were given to the Foreign Ministry and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to transport them from Aleppo to Turkey. Those who had already migrated to Armenia but were not happy with the life there would be welcomed to Turkey with residential and working permits. But Armenian Dashnaktsutyun Party blocked the operation, saying that it would serve Turkish propaganda and only 30 Syrian Armenians benefitted the plan.

Sever’s book is likely to start a new debate in Turkish politics amid coalition talks as the first witness account and perhaps open a Pandora’s Box regarding the AK Parti years in Turkey.