June elections are Erdoğan’s, not Davutoğlu’s
Despite denials from both the presidency and the office of the prime minister, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu are far from creating the harmony and synergy that they were hoping for.
Fresh evidence for the disharmony between the two men is the government’s recent postponement of the “Program for Transparency in Public Administration” that was announced on Jan. 14 by Davutoğlu, who ambitiously heralded that “the principles of the package were put in place on that very day.”
He, however, failed to make his package become law as it was nixed by Erdoğan, who urged ruling party members that announcing such a package would be wrong, especially on the eve of the parliamentary elections. After series of meetings, ruling party officials had to confess that the draft package was not timely and had to postpone it until the post-election term.
President Erdoğan’s priority is surely to get rid of any sort of discussion of corruption, which stands as a “red line” issue for the head of the nation, who was claimed along with his family to have unethical financial relations with a number of wealthy businessmen. Of course, Davutoğlu’s identification of himself with a transparency law package would have brought to mind the president’s allegedly corrupt ties, which was probably the main reason why Erdoğan pressed the government to nix it.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan has successfully managed to make the debate on the presidential system top the national agenda, along with his personal desire to consolidate his power in a more obvious and effective way. In his return from his official trip to Africa, he ignited the flame of this debate, explaining why this would be the best option for the future of Turkey. He has done this through daily, strongly worded speeches that have started to cast a shadow on the prime minister.
Prime Minister Davutoğlu made his positive stance on the presidential system clear in a televised interview this week, but also articulated a major difference from the president’s approach: Davutoğlu wants to see the presidential system become one of the sub-titles of the new constitution, and he stressed that the new charter must have a holistic approach in order to introduce a more “democratic and pro-freedom” understanding.
Erdoğan, however, seems to be less enthusiastic for a modern constitution that would address the country’s democratic deficiencies. The only thing he talks about is making sure that the decision-making process will be speedier for the smooth development of the country.
Davutoğlu’s concern is about the upcoming elections, in which the entire nation will choose between the proposed presidential system under Erdoğan’s leadership and the current parliamentary system. In this case, the elections will be a sort of referendum in which Erdoğan’s presidency will be voted on, at the expense of minimizing Davutoğlu’s role as the prime minister and chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The course of developments indicates that President Erdoğan’s plan is working. His frequent public appearances at public rallies in every corner of Turkey, where he demands that the government sends around 400 lawmakers to parliament, are part of his strategy until the June elections.
It seems that Erdoğan and his men within the AKP and the government do not much care about tarnishing the image of Prime Minister Davutoğlu, as they do not envisage the position of the prime ministry in their presidential model.