Will Davutoğlu save our parliamentary system?

Will Davutoğlu save our parliamentary system?

It’s not clear whether it is the “Erdoğan administration” or the “Davutoğlu government” that is running Turkey these days. If you ask Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu are working in perfect harmony, so there is no problem.

There is something odd in this, however, as most experts agree, given how the role of the president and prime minister are defined under the present Constitution. Ask any expert and they will also say Davutoğlu is in a secondary position here – even though he is the constitutional head of the executive branch – while Erdoğan calls the shots.

Erdoğan has made his ambitions more than apparent and his new grandiose presidential palace and presidential plane, both of which came into commission shortly after he became president, attest to this. Rumor has it that many in the AKP are also questioning what need there was for such ostentation when the public’s money could have been spent much better.

They are nevertheless remaining silent; it is said, for the sake of party solidarity. It is clear that Erdoğan and Davutoğlu will also try and refrain from giving even a hint of divergence at a time when the AKP is preparing for elections slated for next June.

The AKP wants to come out even stronger than it is today from those elections for reasons, to cite a Turkish saying, that even the deaf sultan knows by now.

The key objective is to legitimize Erdoğan as an executive president, and rescue him from the legal limbo he is in with regards to his political ambitions. There are those, however, who claim Davutoğlu will only play second fiddle to Erdoğan up to a point.

They argue that a strong turnout for the AKP in June will also strengthen Davutoğlu’s hand and enable him to wrest unencumbered executive control for himself. Those who believe this say Davutoğlu is also ambitious and wants to leave his own mark on the political landscape, rather than going down in history Erdoğan’s lackey.

There are claims, however, that Davutoğlu will work to introduce a presidential system, confident that he will get a vice presidential role from where he will also control foreign policy. The corollary to this is that Davutoğlu will be primed as the next president after Erdoğan, whose mission he will carry forward.

All of this falls in the realm of deep speculation of course, but these topics are being discussed behind the scenes in Turkey today. What is interesting to note is that former President Abdullah Gül appears to have fallen off the radar all together, after having been outmaneuvered by Erdoğan, who prevented him from assuming the AKP’s leadership and becoming prime minister.

It is also known that there are AKP members who oppose a presidential system and who, like Gül, believe that rather than trying to change Turkey’s political system, the effort should be to improve the present parliamentary one, which, for good or bad, has a history that goes back to 1876.

There is also the fact that we do not know for sure how Davutoğlu feels about a presidential system.

He is Gül’s protégé, after all, and may not be too keen on the idea. If he bolsters his position after June, he might make his views on the subject more apparent. There are those who believe he will veer toward Gül on this.

If that is the case, then Davutoğlu could turn out to be the one who saves Turkey’s parliamentary system against Erdogan’s political ambitions, and might become the choice for many people for this reason alone, given the ineffective position of the opposition parties.

Many will argue that it is still too early to go into all this. Yet it is clearly not early for Erdoğan and Davutoğlu’s inner circles, which are said to be already mulling over these options, given how fast time goes by in Turkey.

What the opposition is doing in the meantime is another question entirely.