Did PM Davutoğlu fall from President Erdoğan’s grace?

Did PM Davutoğlu fall from President Erdoğan’s grace?

For those who have long been closely observing Turkish politics, talking about differences between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on a number of very critical issues should not be surprising. These differences have been put aside in the aftermath of Nov. 1 elections, which gave the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) a clear majority in the parliament to form a powerful government. 

But these have been resurfacing in the last few days as we understand from strong-worded statements of President Erdoğan. There are five main issues on which Erdoğan does not hesitate to express his non-satisfaction with the performance Davutoğlu’s government has shown so far. 

One of them is the fight against terror. First thing President Erdoğan did in his return from the United States was to convene a security meeting with the participation of senior military and civilian authorities to discuss recent rise in the number of casualties given in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This meeting came as some newspapers have quoted Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as saying that the government was thinking to de-freeze peace process with the Kurds if the terrorists would drop their arms. 

President Erdoğan openly challenged Davutoğlu in his public statement on the same day his words appeared in the media, by saying that there were no any other options than fully defeating terrorists. The prime minister had to echo Erdoğan’s line on April 5, a complete backtrack on what he had said over the weekend. 

The second thing Erdoğan is not very happy with is the government’s delay in taking steps for the removal of specific lawmakers’ immunities. In his statement on April 5, Erdoğan openly expressed that he was failing to understand why the government was not taking an initiative on this issue. 

Third is on the new constitution. President Erdoğan has long been pushing the government to launch a campaign to promote the presidential system to ready the public opinion for a potential referendum.

Erdoğan’s pressure on Davutoğlu has yielded results as the prime minister announced that works by the AKP for the writing of the new constitution have started with the objective of accomplishing the process before the end of June. Another contentious area in regards to the new constitution will be how the draft will define the presidential system, duties and responsibilities of the president as well as checks and balances mechanisms. Speaking to reporters a week ago, Davutoğlu described a presidential system to be strictly controlled by a strong check and balances mechanism. It’s not yet sure whether this definition will suit what Erdoğan has in mind. 

The fourth issue is the fight against the parallel structure. There are a number of indications showing Erdoğan’s uneasiness with the effectiveness of the fight against the parallel structure within the state. Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s decision to hold a separate meeting to discuss additional measures in this fight is surely an attempt to ease Erdoğan’s concerns. 

Fifth point in this scope has been voiced by Erdoğan on April 5 in response to Davutoğlu’s statement that he was in principle against of pre-trial detentions, apparently referring to academics who have been arrested after they signed a petition on issues concerning the fight against terror. “Why shouldn’t academics be detained?” Erdoğan asked in his statement, openly challenging the prime minister after he said “Turkey should consider stripping supporters of terrorism of their citizenship.” 

This summary of differences between the two men is obviously speaking for itself but it’s too early to make a hypothetical deduction.