President Erdoğan’s road map as AKP chairman

President Erdoğan’s road map as AKP chairman

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be elected as the chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) during the party’s extraordinary convention in Ankara on May 21, marking another first in the country’s recent political history. 

Just a historical note: Both Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and İsmet İnönü, Turkey’s first two presidents, were also members and chairmen of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) until 1950, when the latter was replaced by Celal Bayar from the ranks of the Democrat Party (DP). Although Bayar resigned from the chairmanship of the DP after his election as Turkey’s third president, he continued his membership in the party. 

The concept of an “impartial president” was introduced to the Turkish constitution in 1961 after the coup attempt in 1960 and has been preserved until today. One of the articles of the comprehensive constitutional amendments that was narrowly approved in the April 16 referendum permits the president to retain links with his or her political party. Although the constitution still underlines the impartiality of the president, Erdoğan’s return to the leadership of the ruling party will practically end his impartial status. 

This weekend’s convention will also mark a new era for the AKP government as it will determine the short- and long-term priorities as well as policies to be adopted under Erdoğan’s leadership to secure simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019. 

In the short-term, Erdoğan’s priority will be to reshape both his AKP and the government through a comprehensive reshuffle. It’s anticipated that he will replace his top aides in order to let the AKP gain new momentum for the upcoming elections. A study will also be carried out to analyze the performances of the AKP’s provincial and municipal organizations in the light of the referendum results.     

In the aftermath of the AKP’s convention, a reshuffle is also expected at the government but its scope will be outlined together with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. It’s believed that the change in the government will ease the hands of Erdoğan and Yıldırım in their efforts to put the economy and international relations in order. 

Erdoğan’s address at the extraordinary convention will certainly give many messages in regards to the government’s policies inside and outside the country, as well as beacons on probable developments in the interim period until 2019. 

There are three main areas on which Erdoğan should focus: a further divided nation in the light of the results of the referendum; risks in the field of international relations and the economy. 

Erdoğan and his AKP team have realized that the 2019 elections will not be a piece of cake given the referendum results and that they need to adopt a new language to expand the 51.4 percent “yes” block. It will be quite important to what extent Erdoğan can pursue an embracing stance and language in this very difficult period.  

On the international front, the AKP’s convention will take place days after Erdoğan’s first in-person meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and days before he is set to meet NATO and EU leaders in Brussels. It’s no secret that Erdoğan wants to repair the damage to ties with the United States and the European Union and that these meetings will provide an important opportunity to do so. We’ll hear more about them from him on the convention day. 

The economy is sending new alarms with figures announced regarding inflation and unemployment. The government is using each and every occasion to spread the message that things are on the right course in Turkey and that there is nothing for international investors to worry about. 

The deterioration in the level of democracy and poor human rights conditions, as well as restricted fundamental freedoms, are also important factors that need to be addressed by the president and the government in this very crucial period. Turkey’s democracy is seen as third world even though it once set an example to underdeveloped countries. 

Erdoğan’s road map as the AKP’s chairman will certainly give us the necessary evidence to determine how all the aforementioned issues will be addressed in this interim period until 2019.