What does the future hold for Hakan Fidan?
The decision by Hakan Fidan, Turkey’s former intelligence chief, to run for parliament as a candidate from the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has stirred the political cauldron. The fact that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu wanted him to run, while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was vehemently opposed to this, has also resulted in much speculation.
It is too early to ask, though, whether this represents the first signs of a rift between Erdoğan and Davutoğlu, which many say - no doubt somewhat hopefully - must inevitably come somewhere down the line.
Veteran journalist Avni Özgürel, however, had a point while talking to Mirgün Cabbas on broadcaster CNN Türk recently, likening Fidan’s candidacy to “driving another King onto the chessboard.” Fidan is not just anyone;he clearly has considerable political weight.
He will, of course, be elected in June. The question is what happens then? There are those who say Davutoğlu may have done the wrong thing by supporting Fidan’s candidacy, because he could end up losing his job to him. Özgürel, however, disagrees and believes that this move shows just how much self-confidence Davutoğlu has in his own abilities.
Others maintain that the post awaiting Fidan is that of foreign minister. The question that arrives here, however, is whether this will be sufficient for Fidan at this stage, given that the job of foreign minister has lost all of its appeal. Under the current system Erdoğan is calling the shots, Davutoğlu is taking his cue from Erdoğan, and there is hardly any initiative that Mevlüt Çavusoğlu can take as foreign minister.
Still, some feel that Fidan’s appointment as foreign minister will raise the profile of the job once again, which will suit Erdoğan too, since he and Fidan have been in tune on many issues pertaining to foreign policy in the past.
It is not for nothing that Israel, for example, is watching the unstoppable rise of Fidan with consternation. The diplomatic grapevine in Ankara also suggests that not everyone in Washington is happy about this turn of events.
There is also the question of Erdoğan’s dream of turning Turkey into a presidential system. If Erdoğan’s seemingly impossible wish to see the AKP emerge from the June 7 elections with 400 deputies is realized, then the whole calculus will change.
The question of who will be Erdoğan’s number two, once the constitution is changed by the AKP in order to introduce a presidential system, becomes valid again, as the race is very likely to be between Davutoğlu and Fidan.
But if Erdoğan’s dream falls through, Turkey will continue with its present hybrid system, which resembles a semi-presidential one, with Davutoğlu pretending to be the head of the executive and Erdoğan deciding everything.
In that case, the question of how long this system can be sustained - given that we are already getting signs that not everyone in the AKP is happy with it - and how long Erdoğan and Davutoğlu can maintain solidarity, becomes valid again.
There is also the matter of who Fidan will lean towards in that case. Will he lean towards Davutoğlu as his prime minister and boss – assuming that Davutoğlu remains in the job - or will he lean towards Erdoğan as his former boss and mentor?
No one has clear answers to these questions yet. This most likely includes Erdoğan, Davutoğlu and Fidan himself, who are clearly currently engaged in trying to concretize their personal political plans.
This also means that there is much uncertainty within the AKP as to what the future holds. If Erdoğan’s leadership plans are realized then the way forward for the AKP becomes simple: The party becomes Erdoğan’s rubber stamp in parliament, and its deputies can sit back and enjoy the privileges and perks that come with the job.
If, however, Erdoğan’s dream is not realized, then matters become more complicated. Fidan’s presence on the chessboard as another King will make it even more so.