What happened in Turkey in Erdoğan’s absence?

What happened in Turkey in Erdoğan’s absence?

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided to return to Turkey from his long tour to three Latin American countries a day earlier than planned. There has been much speculation about his decision, but presidential sources claim that there was no special reason for his early return to home. 

Erdoğan will perhaps explain why he wanted to return home in his likely conversation with the reporters travelling with him, but before hearing what he says, let’s see what happened in Turkey over the last week while he was in Latin America.

First and foremost, Erdoğan’s most trusted bureaucrat, his secret keeper, former National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, resigned from his post on Feb. 10, despite the president’s opposition. Fidan will run for parliament in June, probably to take on a senior position in the next cabinet. Fidan’s deputy, İsmail Hakkı Musa will serve as the acting MİT head until a final appointment is made. So last week saw Erdoğan losing his most important aide within the intelligence bureaucracy.

The second thing that happened was the second postponement of the controversial homeland security bill. President Erdoğan had made clear why this bill was very important in fighting against what he calls the parallel state, as well as avoiding future mass revolts such as the Oct. 6 and 7 street protests staged mostly by Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin in southeastern Anatolia. Citing anonymous foreign powers that are trying to stop the Turkish awakening and the country’s rise to becoming a global power, Erdoğan has referred to the security bill as the most important tool to halt future interventions against the making of the “New Turkey.” The government under Davutoğlu’s leadership postponed discussion of the bill at parliament for another week while Erdoğan was away.

The third thing was the accelerated traffic between the government and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), with more promising statements that a joint communique could be declared in the coming days.

An HDP delegation first went to meet Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı Island Prison, and then to the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq to meet senior officials of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) regarding negotiations with the government for the final disarmament of the PKK. It was interesting to observe that the traffic between the parties intensified after the government announced that it had postponed the security bill for another week.         

These developments could well be interpreted as showing that Prime Minister Davutoğlu has started to play his own game against President Erdoğan’s growing suppression of his own government. As such, the fate of the security bill will be very important in letting us see how things will develop in due course.

All three opposition parties - the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the HDP - have made clear that they will show very tough resistance at parliament to stop the legislation of the bill. Some HDP officials have already linked the Kurdish peace process to the security bill, while many in Ankara believe the bill will create more tension in an already polarized country - especially on the eve of parliamentary elections in June.

President Erdoğan’s early return to Ankara could have been prompted by concerns that he is losing control of many critical issues that are of vital importance for him.