The Numan Kurtulmuş affair in five questions
RUŞEN ÇAKIR1) Is it a surprise that Numan Kurtulmuş will transfer to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)?
Kurtulmuş’s departure for the AKP would not be against the grain. Actually it wouldn’t have been surprising if Kurtulmuş had joined the “reformist” movement led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the time of the Welfare Party (RP). However, because of the Necmettim Erbakan factor, he acted together with the conservatives; moreover, he became one of the strongest obstacles to the reformists. Kurtulmuş also opted for the Felicity Party (SP) in the AKP/SP split, but he had some bitter experiences there. I think it was wrong for him to set up the People’s Voice Party (HAS Party) after he had to depart the SP. He could have taken a break from politics and after a while, if he wanted to continue from where he left off, he could have joined the AKP. It was an even bigger mistake to insist on the HAS Party after the 2011 general elections. In short, what was against the grain was the HAS Party venture in between. For this reason, we can say that Kurtulmuş’s departure for the ruling party is exceptionally natural and that he will quickly adjust to the AKP.
2) Will Kurtulmuş fit into the AKP?
It is true that after Abdullah Gül moved into the Çankaya Presidential Mansion, the AKP became a complete “Erdoğan Party;” this said, it is wrong to think that all those figures who have given their years for this movement do not have a say and a right to vote on any subject. As a matter of fact, when the transfer of Kurtulmuş came into the open, top-level AKP figures such as Hüseyin Çelik and Ekrem Erdem did not hesitate to publicly express their discontent. Erdoğan will listen to objections and concerns in this process but will make the final decision himself; in other words, it is almost certain that he will bring Kurtulmuş into his party.
3) Will Kurtulmuş become prime minister if Erdoğan becomes president?
Only this part is right: If Erdoğan maintains the three-term limit for MPs in the party statute, then several of the AKP’s veterans will have to step aside, and the road ahead of new figures such as Kurtulmuş and Süleyman Soylu will be quite open. Despite this, it is out of the question for Erdoğan not to look after his old fellow travelers when considering the positions he will offer Kurtulmuş within the party and in political life in general. For this reason, those who regard Kurtulmuş as “Erdoğan’s crown prince” are wrong. In the post-Erdoğan AKP, figures such as Abdullah Gül and Bülent Arınç, who formed the party from scratch, will naturally shine out more. On the other hand, those who keep quiet today on the matter with Kurtulmuş because of Erdoğan will start a domestic battle within the party in the event that Erdoğan departs for the Çankaya Mansion and, in this context, will surely compete with Kurtulmuş.
4) What kind of a future awaits the HAS Party?
The HAS Party has demonstrated a remarkable performance in a short time. In the positive image created by the party, the effect of Kurtulmuş’s extraordinary courtesy was high. However, behind some of the HAS Party’s interesting policies were, rather than Kurtulmuş, remarkable figures who have different experiences, background and history. As a matter of fact, it can be said that Kurtulmuş, because of his extremely cautious style, acted as a brake on those policies and blocked the party from gaining dynamism. However, in the event that Kurtulmuş (maybe together with a few friends) joins the AKP, it can not be said that the road ahead of the HAS Party will be clear. At this point, it is important what kind of a direction Mehmet Bekaroğlu will adopt after criticizing Kurtulmuş to whom – in his own words – “he has bid farewell.” However, the HAS Party, which has been perceived as “the party of Numan Kurtulmuş” from the beginning, may continue on its path for a while but I don’t think its life span will be very long.
5) Has the Felicity Party been left as the sole leader of the ‘National View?’
It looks as if this will be so at first glance, but the transfer of Kurtulmuş to the AKP will not particularly benefit the SP because, during the process that triggered the birth of the HAS Party, all the segments of the National View were damaged. After this, the conflicts of interest that erupted within the Erbakan family negatively affected the SP. We can foresee that in the event that it receives a low number of votes in the next elections, the SP will be marginalized completely and the National View tradition, albeit partially, will continue to exist in the guise of the AKP.
Ruşen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan in which this piece was published on July 13. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.