The last khutbah; the new system
Great expectations often lead to great disappointments. That might be a very short summary of the famous Charles Dickens novel “Great Expectations.” It was perhaps wrong to develop great expectations about the convention speech of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In fact, almost nothing came out of the much expected speech other than a very lengthy “farewell,” full of quotes from a large list of Turkish poems and lofty rhetoric. Indeed, if the aim was to deliver a “last khutbah,” that was done.
Erdoğan’s speech was a “tour de horizon,” touching all subjects with few sentences. With all these criticisms dared to be made, I must underline that he indeed delivered a direct commitment and a very important and coded message. While talking on the works pertaining to an all-party commission to write a new constitution he underscored two things. He said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would remain committed to the process and would not be the party to abandon the process. That was good but the real message was coded in the “new constitution for a new system” assertion. New System… He did not say he would like to seek presidency. He did not say Turkey would go to a presidential or semi-presidential system of governance from the current parliamentary democracy. The coded message was indeed clear; in the period ahead Turkey would be steered by Erdoğan and his AKP toward a “new system” of governance.
Thus, while a “humble” Erdoğan declared in closing his lengthy oration that after he completes this last term as AKP leader he would be at the disposal of new party executives and might serve in any position they would like, be it as a “conference speaker” at a remote Anatolian town or as head of a commission. Indeed he launched a campaign not only for his prospective presidential contest in 2014, but also for a “reform” of a “Turkey with a new system.”
Could Erdoğan’s speech then be considered the “last khutbah” as his propaganda machine has been trying to portray it for some time? Even Erdoğan himself never believed even for one single second the prospect of abandoning power with his own free will. Yes, the AKP is a very big political movement, far older than its own shallow 11 year history, but this party definitely has sufficient cadres to fill any possible vacancies within itself. Yet in a party where not one dissent voice is ever allowed to be raised, anticipating Erdoğan will step aside would be naive. He would elevate himself and the powers of the prime ministry to the presidency. That was the “new system” message.
Some guests of honor to the convention were irritating for the nationalists and the patriots. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, as well as Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Iraqi Kurdish region, received great applause in the convention hall. Why was Omer Al-Bashir of Sudan, a long-time buddy of Erdoğan absent? Was it because the AKP was brave enough to invite Barzani, whose presence was not particularly appreciated by those unhappy with his reluctance in cooperating with Turkey in the fight against the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) gang, or Mashaal who is condemned by the international community as a terrorist, but shy in inviting al-Bashir who just signed a deal with the people he was up until killing yesterday?