Why does Erdoğan choose not to be president of 80 million?
During the recent tense referendum campaign process, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited a “no” tent in Istanbul and had a brief conversation with the naysayer activists. When he asked a female campaigner why they were against the constitutional changes, she told Erdoğan: “We say ‘no’ because we want you to be our president as well.”
The referendum was narrowly approved, and their 18 articles have been put into force, which allowed Erdoğan to return to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on May 2. He will be elected as the chairman of the party on May 21 at an extraordinary convention. President and AKP Chairman Erdoğan will then start to effectively implement his plans for the 2019 general elections, where the remaining parts of the constitutional amendments will begin to be implemented.
The first thing to do for Erdoğan is to reshape the AKP as he was not very happy with its performance during the referendum. He will appoint a new team at the headquarters and will conduct a massive change in the provincial organizations, especially where the AKP’s performance was poor in the April 16 polls.
At the same time, he will also work on a new cabinet with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in a bid to energize the government for the 2019 targets.
His messages from the AKP headquarters upon his return to the party were to this end. He instructed his party colleagues that they should continue their relentless efforts in meeting and convincing the public that the work has just begun after the referendum. As usual, he was harsh toward the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), signaling that there will be no conciliatory period in the Turkish political environment.
Both the CHP and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) slammed Erdoğan’s return to the AKP by highlighting the oddity that has been created in state affairs. The HDP’s Osman Baydemir said the move introduced a new format to the state while Kılıçdaroğlu signaled that Erdoğan would not be respected in his capacity as the president because he had now rejoined a political party. For the CHP leader and many other oppositional groups, Erdoğan no longer represents the 80 million Turkish citizens as their president because he has chosen to become a member of a political party.
The reason behind this decision is about Erdoğan’s vision as a politician, which has been clear since even his early days in politics. Erdoğan wants to transform Turkish society into what he calls a more conservative leaning one with a more independent foreign policy. The AKP will always be his most efficient tool in implementing this project, and leaving it to softer hands will only cause weaknesses.
He has won all elections and all titles thanks to his AKP machine, and he is eager to win another one in 2019. He will therefore abandon being the president of all to reach his next and final ambition at the expense of creating more divisive fault lines in Turkish politics and society.
In any case, Turkey will have to face dire straits through the course of this interim period until 2019.