AKP turning into party of crises
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu finally appeared before the media on March 24, the fifth day of tension between his government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the latter’s direct criticism of the way the government is handling the Kurdish peace process.
Erdoğan on March 21 urged the government not to take further steps as part of the Kurdish process unless the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) agrees to lay down weapons. His statement came only a few days after the government announced the formation of a monitoring committee composed of five or six people, in line with the request of the PKK’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan.
Unlike senior government officials, including Prime Minister Davutoğlu, President Erdoğan did not find Öcalan’s March 21 statement satisfactory or sufficient, and he expressed a deep mistrust toward the government’s Kurdish interlocutors, particularly Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş.
Davutoğlu’s much-anticipated statement had two dimensions. First, he tried to downplay the rift with the president, stressing that there was “no chaos” and they were on the same page on the peace process.
The second dimension, however, is an open contradiction of the first one. Ignoring the fact that the unprecedented quarrel between Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek was in fact a byproduct of the Erdoğan-government row, he threatened to send both men to the AKP’s disciplinary board if they continue this polemic.
After all, it has become clear that Erdoğan’s ambition in meddling in governmental and AKP affairs will cause more damage to the AKP. But it may be counted as only the beginning. The greatest challenge in front of Davutoğlu is the preparation of the candidates’ list for the upcoming elections. As the chairman of the AKP and the prime minister, Davutoğlu would surely have his full authority to draw-up the final nomination list, as it will be his own parliamentary group working in the period between 2015 and 2019.
But for many in Ankara, Davutoğlu’s influence on the candidates list will be minimal. Given the fact that nearly two-thirds of the 310 lawmakers of the AKP will change in this election, Erdoğan surely wants to keep his weight as the ultimate leader of the AKP. It may not create a huge tremor, but this process may bring about some more faultlines between Erdoğan and Davutoğlu’s government.
One of the most important things is the fact that this is the first time the ruling party has gone through such internal problems. Known for its party discipline under Erdoğan’s 14-year rule, the AKP was depicted as a solid political party that could hardly be divided.
A general observation is that the current situation has emerged due to Davutoğlu’s way of ruling the party, as he has not been able to prove his leadership under Erdoğan’s tutelage. It’s true that Davutoğlu illustrates a different style of leadership compared to Erdoğan, especially because of his academic background. However, the real responsibility of this governance crisis belongs to Erdoğan, who keeps violating the Turkish constitution, which stipulates that the president must be politically neutral.
The Aug. 10, 2014, presidential elections launched a new era in Turkey, as the president was elected through a popular vote for the first time ever, although the duties and responsibilities of the president remained the same. Erdoğan says 52 percent of the Turkish people voting for him were asking him to do his job as the head of the nation, and it is his duty to criticize and intervene. That is the point when Erdoğan calls on the Turkish people to give a big enough majority to the ruling party in order to adopt the presidential system and enhance the power of the president.
Given public opinion polls, it is unlikely that the AKP will secure the desired majority to change the constitution in the way Erdoğan wants in the upcoming elections. That means that Turkey’s current genetically-modified administrative system will continue to produce more crises in the future.