Top three things that annoy PM Erdoğan

Top three things that annoy PM Erdoğan

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan is quickly getting upset these days, and indeed Turkey lacks no reasons for a prime minister to get upset.

A joint press conference in Ankara on Feb. 11 gave Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy a chance to tell his European Union colleagues about the state of the media in Turkey, but no, reporters are not among the top three things that annoy Erdoğan. Rather, it is just like a bad, old habit for him to dress reporters down.

And no, the curses of Fethullah Güllen, the moderate Islamist scholar who resides in the United States and who was among his top allies up until recently, could not be regarded as being among the top three things that make Erdoğan upset. This is because Erdoğan is a master of using conflicts as an "extra-power" in politics. The top three things that annoy Erdoğan nowadays can be listed as follows, in reverse order:

3) Polls showing a rise in Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) votes: Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the MHP are in competition for conservative/nationalist votes especially in the Black Sea, Central Anatolian and Inner Aegean regions. Because of the dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the recent corruption allegations, some MHP voters who had gone to the AK Parti in recent elections could return home. Erdoğan has concerns that if polls showing a rise in MHP votes hit the media it could encourage more former MHP voters to return home from the AK Parti.

2) The CHP’s revelation of tapes in Parliament: Perhaps it will turn out to be a risky political tool for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), to have played the telephone recordings between government figures and businessmen revealing corruption allegations under the roof of Parliament. Erdoğan claims that it may hit Kılıçdaroğlu like a boomerang, and implies that Gülenists might come up with recordings about him one day.

But as he keeps revealing recordings, Kılıçdaroğlu is aiming to hit more than one bird with the same stone. On a strategic level, he is making sure that all corruption allegations are being kept in the public records of Parliament, even if the government is trying to erase their electronic traces with the new Internet law. On a tactical level, he is telling everyone on the eve of elections that he has nothing to be afraid of. Also, he is keeping the corruption claims on the agenda, despite Erdoğan’s efforts to distract public opinion by calling the Dec. 17 probe a “coup attempt” by Gülenists.

1) Calls for Gül to intervene in the crisis: It’s not just political parties – by NGOs and pressure groups are calling for President Abdullah Gül to intervene in problems in order to prevent the crisis from growing further. This annoys Erdoğan a great deal. Though it is a constitutional right and duty for the president, and though Gül is his long-time partner in politics, Erdoğan tends to take it as a challenge to his authority.

Turkey is heading for a critical presidential election in six months. The recent debates are diminishing the chances of Erdoğan becoming president under the new presidential system that he wants, or even under the current one. But he will not let it go so easily - he will try his chances up until the last minute. We are not there yet, but every call asking Gül to intervene as a superior political actor, which he is as president, makes Erdoğan more uncomfortable.