Tough dynamics in Erdoğan-Arınç relationship
While evaluating the recent divergence between Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, we need to shortly recall similar situations experienced in the past within the unique dynamics of the relationship between these two AK Party (Justice and Development Party) personalities.
This relationship, though not revealed frequently, has a structure that accommodates certain conflicts from time to time. There have been several political incidents when Arınç adopted a different stance than Erdoğan, moreover when he has made his position dominate at certain critical milestones.
Erdoğan and Arınç, together with Abdullah Gül, are the three key names of the hard core who founded the AK Party after launching the struggle against Necmettin Erbakan within the “Milli Görüş” (National Vision) Movement.
The first of these milestones was experienced right after Nov. 3, 2002 elections, during the election of the first Speaker of Parliament from AK Party. At that time, Erdoğan had another candidate in mind. Despite this, Arınç made a move, took the support of Gül, ran for office and won the elections.
One of the determining factors here was that Arınç and Gül chose to collaborate. At that time, the Gül-Arınç axis was able to overcome certain situations against Erdoğan’s weight within the AK Party equilibriums.
A more striking example was the Parliament voting on March 1, 2003 over the motion to allow the U.S. Army to open a land front from Turkey against Iraq.
At that time, despite Erdoğan’s full pressure for the motion to pass in Parliament, he met with serious resistance. For example, Gül, even though he was the prime minister at the time, was not demonstrating a strong stance supporting the motion. The general opinion is the Speaker of Parliament Bülent Arınç’s key role while he was presiding the session on March 1 is one of the factors that the motion did not pass.
Another very important milestone was the presidential elections during the summer of 2007. It was an open secret in Ankara that Erdoğan was reluctant to see Gül at the presidential post and preferred a low-profile AK Party personality for the Çankaya Mansion. The significance of the political support he received from Arınç is undeniable in the move Gül made to become the president.
All of these examples from our recent history show when Arınç and Gül join forces together, in a more popular expression, when they join their densities, the critical density that emerges is effective in reaching the political outcome targeted.
Even though Erdoğan has always been the “primus inter pares,” power in the AK Party was able to be shared under a gentleman’s agreement in its early period. When Arınç and Gül stood side by side, they were able to stop Erdoğan’s dominance just fine.
It could be misleading to assume that the past pattern would work exactly the same in the year 2013. No doubt, Erdoğan’s power domain within the AK Party is wider than ever.
However, at the same time, it is also irrefutable that Arınç constitutes a center of gravity within the AK Party. A long list can be made out of situations where he did not hesitate to dissent against the prime minister, as in the case of deputies under arrest.
However, the most important one, probably, is that Arınç and Erdoğan have been totally on contrary with each other during the Gezi Park incidents. Against Arınç’s flexible attitude trying to understand the youth, the prime minister’s tough, uncompromising line brought them face to face in the Cabinet. For this reason, even though the public is not fully aware, it is known that a major fracture was experienced last June.
Hence, it might be necessary to add the effect of the pressure accumulated by this fracture behind the stance Arınç adopted against the prime minister who publicly put him in an awkward position.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for the daily Hürriyet, in which this abridged piece was published on Nov. 12. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.