Since the ousting of Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, pro-president media outlets are appealing for unity and loyalty to president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The calls come as Davutoglu’s removal provokes uncharacteristic dissent within the party, being played out on social media.
Davutoglu’s ouster by Erdogan took much of the ruling AKP by surprise. The move resulted in a rare public show of dissent within the AKP, with angry exchanges on social media.
Political consultant Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners said the dissent sends a worrying message to the president. “Davutoglu’s removal started a bitter fight in the party, much bigger than I anticipated,” he said. “Between his followers or Erdogan’s detractors and Erdogan’s fans. I think Erdogan fears or his advisers fear that unless he assumes formal powers over the party, he may lose the party and that I think is the bigger issue.”
The AKP has announced it intends to amend the constitution to lift a ban on the president being a member of a political party, allowing Erdogan to regain formal control over it.
Pro-AKP media are calling for unity, while dissenting voices are being purged from their positions. Political scientist Cengiz Aktar said Erdogan will quickly crush any dissent.
“It was just wishful thinking by some people who started to think that Mr. Davutoglu can be an alternative to Erdogan. It was just a big mistake, and it’s over,” Aktar stated. “The remaining AKP followers will simply pay tribute to the unique sole source of power in the country.”
Political columnist Kadri Gursel of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper and Al Monitor website said in his more than a decade in power Erdogan amassed powerful instruments of patronage to maintain power and the loyalty of his supporters.
“Erdogan has built up a very large apparatus — political interests, financial interests, social interests — many. He has turned the party into a huge company, running the state business, running the budget,” Gursel said.
On Sunday, Erdogan is expected to further strengthen his grip on the AKP when it elects Davutoglu’s successor. It is widely predicted the replacement will be one Erdogan’s closest allies.
The president has said his priority is to extend his presidential powers, a move that has to be ratified by a referendum.
Political consultant Yesilada said the outcome of that vote could be key to the future of the president. “I think we will have a referendum of sorts, this summer, the outcome of which is very uncertain. If Erdogan wins, everybody will be resigned to their fate. If Erdogan loses on the other hand, I am fairly certain there would be a bitter struggle in the party, or at least reduce his influence,” said Yesilada.
Erdogan’s dominance of Turkish politics is built on more than a decade of successive electoral victories, but the president is likely to be aware that with any sign of weakness, opponents in and outside his party would likely not hesitate to challenge his power.
(Photo of Erdogan and Davutoglu in the summer of 2015: AKP)