When even Davutoğlu becomes a ‘traitor’

When even Davutoğlu becomes a ‘traitor’

Turkey experienced a sort of a “coup” last week, just to use the terminology of the new ruling elite. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who had won a sweeping electoral victory just six months ago, was forced to leave his job. The authority which forced him to do that, the president, had no constitutional power to do so. No wonder the president’s supporters proudly told us that this was not a work of the constitution, but the “de facto presidential system” which is now at work. A system, in other words, which is based not on law but political will. 

This triumph of that will is likely to continue on May 22, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) elects its new chair, who will also be Turkey’s new prime minister. But in effect it is the president who will choose the new figure, as he had chosen Davutoğlu some 20 months ago. The only difference is that this new figure will be a “low profile” person, as the president’s former speech writer openly said, before being corrected by party spokesmen, for what he said was too politically incorrect. For although Mr. Davutoğlu took the job with the president’s blessing and kept reiterating his loyalty to him, he was not “low profile,” as he sometimes dared to take independent and different steps.

That limited independence, along with his relative moderateness, made Davutoğlu a “traitor” in the eyes of hardcode Erdoğanists (the latter constitute a political cadre which is now as remarkable as the Kemalists, who had dominated the era before the Erdoğanists; there is something in the Turkish gene, apparently, which cannot do without cults of personalities). 

We know about this “treason” of Davutoğlu because of a document which called itself the “Pelican Brief.” It was exposed on the web on the night of May 1 and became a national hit in just a few hours. It was written by an unnamed hardcore Erdoğanist — or someone “who would sacrifice his soul for the chief.” It explained how Davutoğlu “betrayed” Erdoğan by, first, not pushing enough for “the presidential system” that the latter is passionate about and also by “collaborating with the West and its Trojan horses [inside Turkey] who want to topple the chief.”

The misdeeds of Davutoğlu included, according to the same document: Opposing the imprisonment of journalists and academics, being less tolerant to corruption, giving interviews to Western media and sidelining Erdoğan by signing a deal with the EU. Reasonable stuff, you could say. But for the Pelican Brief, all this was nothing but treacherous stuff. So, Davutoğlu had to be gone. And other “traitors” that sympathize with him, such as the new daily Karar, which is trying to revive the good old days of the AKP, had to be silenced.

Just four days after this expose, Davutoğlu had to give his farewell address. So, the “Pelican Brief” proved to be something. No one has owned it yet, but some milder Erdoğanists argued that it was the work of the more hardline Erdoğanists. Moreover, a former advisor to former President Abdullah Gül said the latter were all apparatchiks paid and controlled by “the palace.”

I honestly don’t care who exactly wrote the “Pelican Brief.” But I do care about the borderline insane worldview I see in it. Here is a triumphant ideology that has an unquestionable “chief,” a sacred “cause,” a plenitude of enemies and an ever-increasing number of “traitors.” It sounds like, to be frank, the ideology of some very unpleasant episodes of the early 20th century Europe.