Dancing on a tightrope
Party discipline is a big issue for some parties while in one, loyalty to the eternal leader is so strong and uncompromising that with just one sign, the chairperson might feel compelled not only to step down but also spell out who should take over his post at the leader’s dictate... A post that has been transformed from chief executive of the country to a royal and loyal secretariat.
Who will replace the disgraced Ahmet Davutoğlu? Is there a meaning in such a question as long as even the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the palace deep throats publicly admit the next chief vizier will be a low-profile one? Could it be Groom Pasha? Or could it be Mr. Lightning? Definitely, Thunderbolt is to be flushed out while the most righteous rainbow or the one with the bluest blood may emerge victorious at the end of the day. Who it will be does not matter much; what’s demanded is full and unconditional obedience under all conditions without using the words “if, but, I” or such.
Whoever is selected as successor must be sent to an acrobatic school as walking on a tightrope is nothing; he should learn how to dance in the air above that aloof chair.
Bahçeli to Erdoğan’s aid?
While the president is engaged in efforts to gag the Germans, his political crutch, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli declared boldly the most open secret in the country: “The de facto support we have been giving AKP so far might be converted into a legal one...”
What might be the significance of the support of the MHP for Erdoğan at this critical junction of Turkish politics? The AKP has a clear majority to form a government to Erdoğan’s liking. There appears to be no need to transform the MHP’s de facto support into a “legal one,” meaning a formal coalition relationship between the two parties. What’s the meaning of the offer of the MHP leader then? Obviously Bahçeli, with his unaccustomed and indecent offer, was indeed telling Erdoğan that if he wanted to become the super-president and needed MHP votes to achieve a constitutional amendment, he would need to pay for it.
What might be the bill? Obviously there is a bold first line: Saving Bahçeli from the opposition trying to topple him. Wasn’t that what Erdoğan has exactly been trying to do? Was it a coincidence that two local courts out of blue issued verdicts banning the extraordinary convention of the MHP until after the Court of Appeals make a decision on an earlier court ruling clearing the way for an extraordinary convention? Had Bahçeli not become a hero for the allegiant media outlets as if he was the leader of the ruling party? Well, that would be too much... After all, he has a nasty mathematical understanding, and Erdoğan would like to avoid that.
Will the opponents in the MHP manage to convene the convention this Sunday? Meral Akşener appears determined to get the convention process underway, clear the way for a party leadership election and end this month as the new MHP leader. Will the Court of Appeals let that happen? To what degree will Erdoğan and his merry men help Bahçeli survive this threat? Can Bahçeli agree to lend support to the super-president scheme in exchange for saving his seat as party leader?
What will the Germans do with the latest demand by President Erdoğan’s lawyer for a court injunction against the head of Mathias Döpfner, the chief executive officer of Axel Springer, one of Germany’s biggest publishing houses? The demand, unfortunately, demonstrated an escalated row over a satirical poem written and read out by comedian Jan Böhmermann on a public channel.
Will Germany and other European countries agree to Erdoğan’s demand to extend his mastery in gagging all critics at home to Europe and beyond? Will Chancellor Angela Merkel nod her head and give in to Erdoğan’s iron-fist policies once again?
Indeed, Erdoğan stepped back a bit from his initial rhetoric of “We go our way, you go your way,” but he remains as stiff as ever to demands to narrow the liberal terrorism description in Turkey as part of the 72 conditions to get visa-free travel for Turks to Europe. Giving Turkey 6 billion euros over the next three years, accelerating the accession talks process in exchange for visa-free travel and Turkey taking care of Syrian, Iraqi and other “Eastern” refugees might not be an applicable deal at all. Can Erdoğan give up the military option in dealing with the Kurdish problem? Can he return to a political process? If he needs the MHP or nationalist vote to become the super-president, no way. But was the deal something only Davutoğlu was keen to achieve? Obviously not. Getting visa-free travel might be a great card in the hands of Erdoğan in any election. Yet, can he agree to limit the scope of the anti-terrorism law despite with his phobias?
Dancing on a tight rope might be an underestimation of the daunting task ahead...