Erdoğan parts ways with Arınç amid reform row

Erdoğan parts ways with Arınç amid reform row

The reforms soon to be announced by the government in a bid to better Turkey’s investment climate are the topic of the day in Turkish politics. 

Let us, first of all, underline that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government have not clarified the scope and extent of the reforms. They have just vowed that a new era in democracy, the economy, the rule of law and foreign policy will be launched as a result of the reforms.

Even though there is nothing concrete so far, even the talk of reforms has raised the political tension in the Turkish capital. Bülent Arınç, one of the founding members of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) who served as parliamentary speaker, justice minister and deputy prime minister in different Erdoğan-led governments, was one of those who expressed his views about the content of the democratic reforms. 

Although he is no longer in active politics, he is serving as a member of the Supreme Advisory Board at the Presidency which holds regular meetings with Erdoğan on current political developments. 

In short, Arınç said a libertarian approach was needed to resolve the problems stemming from the democratic deficiencies and criticized the continued imprisonment of former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş and civil society activist Osman Kavala. 

Erdoğan’s response to Arınç’s intervention was harsh. “In recent days, we see that a new fire of strife is being started with some individual statements that have nothing to do with us. Even if we have worked together in the past, no one’s personal statements can be made related to our government, our party,” he said.

The president stressed that his government would not make the slightest change in its direction and would never walk hand in hand with “terrorist organizations.” 

Another important message Erdoğan gave in the same statement was that the People’s Alliance he created with Devlet Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had brought about a “historical change” in Turkey’s administration and that he was very satisfied with the ongoing partnership with Bahçeli. 

Following Erdoğan’s statement, many senior AKP officials bombarded Arınç with social media messages, calling on him to resign from his position at the advisory board. As a result, Arınç resigned from his job.  

Bahçeli, too, jumped into the discussion and lashed out at Arınç with insults. Calling him a fool, Bahçeli advised prosecutors to launch a criminal probe against Arınç for his promotion of a book penned by Demirtaş. 

Like Erdoğan, Bahçeli praised the People’s Alliance as the creator of the executive-presidential system and said no one would be able to challenge it. The MHP leader rejected claims that Erdoğan would part ways with the MHP in a bid to make reforms, stressing the reforms would be carried out jointly with the AKP. 

This latest debate in Ankara has shown that Erdoğan will not risk his relationship with the MHP and can even sacrifice his long-time comrades-in-arms. After all, it will not be difficult to understand that the proposed reforms will have to get the MHP’s consent before being passed.

And given the MHP’s boundaries when it comes to democracy, heralding the coming period as a “new era” is not particularly realistic.