Is Erdoğan framing Davutoğlu as the next prime minister?
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are seemingly confident that the Erdoğan will be elected as the 12th president of Turkey in the first round of elections on Aug. 10. Erdoğan has said he is expecting 54 to 56 percent of the votes, in line with the results of some public opinion polls.
He even bid farewell to his parliamentary group on July 22, underlining that it would be his last group meeting if he is elected president in the coming weeks.
Along with his addresses to his parliamentary group and to the people through frequent public rallies, he has also intensified his media campaign through interviews with pro-government journalists. As journalists are also convinced that Erdoğan is already the winner of the elections, their questions focus more on who will be the next prime minister and on what grounds the elected president and the elected prime minister will cooperate.
The first message that Erdoğan has conveyed through these interviews is that President Abdullah Gül will have to wait at least 10 months if he has a will to return to active politics, and thus to the Justice and Development Party (AKP). He clearly underlined that the most important thing is to pass through what he calls the “interim period” and to take the government to the parliamentary elections to be held in June 2015. Erdoğan made clear once again that he has no intention of seeing his old friend, Abdullah Gül, either as the head of the AKP or as the head of the government. Now the ball is in Gül’s court and we’ll all see whether he will surprise the political climate through an unexpected move.
Erdoğan is tight-lipped on who is in his mind as the next prime minister, but does hint at what criteria the potential candidate should have. The next prime minister, as the next president, will be someone actively running for the service of the people, Erdoğan has said, stressing that he will refrain from moves to weaken the prime minister.
Erdoğan will surely be heavily involved in the government’s works, but not necessarily through weekly Cabinet meetings. There are hints that Erdoğan will chair the Cabinet once every month or two and use his other constitutional powers when necessary.
One other criteria is that the next prime minister should be someone devoted to the fight against the Fethullah Gülen community, or the “parallel state,” as Erdoğan puts it. “If we do not pursue this fight together then our friends in the executive will pay the price for it. We went through this and I do not want to experience this again,” he said in clear terms.
These two criterions are applicable to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, despite the fact that there are criticisms of his way of conducting foreign policy. Davutoğlu is no doubt one of the most hardworking ministers of the Cabinet and is one of the most outspoken against the Gülen community. He also shares a good portion of the burden in Erdoğan’s struggle against the opposition presidential candidate, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu.
In a fair observation, it can be said that Davutoğlu is the second most outspoken and visible AKP politician nowadays, not only because foreign policy issues like Gaza, Iraq, Syria are topping the agenda but also because of his ambitious style of doing politics.
The release of 49 Turkish citizens, including Turkey’s consul-general in Mosul, who have been held as hostages by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) since June 11, before the presidential elections would surely be an important asset for both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu in their respective targets.
However, there are two important questions on Davutoğlu: Can he repeat Erdoğan’s performance in parliamentary elections, and would his election as prime minister kick off internal dissidence in the AKP?