AKP on the verge of disintegration

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The June 23 election defeat has proven to be a great encouragement for those making arrangements to break ties with the AKP. Ali Babacan, who has secured Abdullah Gül’s support, is expected leave the AKP very soon to start a new political party. Ahmet Davutoğlu’s position, on the other hand, is yet to become clearer. What can Erdoğan do in the face of these these break up possibilities?

Click CC in the bottom right corner for English subtitles.
Broadcast date: 26 June 2019

Translation: Melissa Clissold / Subtitles: Egemen Gök

Hello, good day. Yesterday I hosted Kemal Öztürk as a guest in this studio, there may have been some of you who watched. Kemal Öztürk passed on some important news and it drew in a lot of interest; the news was with regards to Ali Babacan personally seeing President Erdoğan in Ankara, telling him that he was to be leaving the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and also that he would, in the next week to ten days, officially announce that he is leaving the party. This is also a declaration of Ali Babacan forming his new party.

I checked from other sources of mine – this is already a process that we are following closely – the situation is serious. Ali Babacan, who is supported by Abdullah Gül, is going to be forming a new party with a lot of people who have taken on different roles within the AKP government – a lot of them have been marginalised, alienated and pushed away. But what I have heard is this; this party is not only going to be formed by old members of the AKP, but they will try to do what Turgut Özal did in the 80s when he first founded the Motherland Party (ANAP), by bringing people from different backgrounds together, and those that want to enter politics for the first time. How successful will this be? It can’t be known, but it is certain that the leader of this movement will be Ali Babacan, and his greatest “sponsor”, for want of a better word, will be former President Abdullah Gül. It is also rumoured that a lot of names that are always mentioned beside Abdullah Gül, will also be within this party.

In addition, we also know that Ahmet Davutoğlu is also searching for something else. Will a party emerge from this search? Most recently it looked like it would indeed come about, that it might happen. Again, another guest in our studio Ahmet Taşgetiren, had told us that during the Bayram (Eid celebrations), a harsh phone call took place between President Erdoğan and Davutoğlu. Nevertheless, other than the option of Davutoğlu forming a new party, it is still said that Erdoğan may invite Davutoğlu to the AKP again – but for a strong position. Yet, there is a serious problem here, and that is: previously, the moment President Erdoğan became president, he had appointed Ahmet Davutoğlu as the party and government head.

But afterwards, the system changed. If he calls Ahmet Davutoğlu back, if he calls him back with those who are also close to him, what could he suggest to them? There is no such thing as a prime minister, there are ministers; but there is not much meaning in being a minister. There is the Vice Presidency, yet until now, we have not really seen a helpful function of being the Vice President, we haven’t seen it as an effective position. Therefore, in this system, even if Ahmet Davutoğlu returns – or Ali Babacan, but we know that he is now certainly not going to return – it is not sure how he will take place. So, there are two party preparations ahead of us; one is very serious and will probably be announced not before long, and the other may potentially turn into a party. 

In addition to this, I am of the opinion that in the case of these two movements becoming parties, some people may break away due to the confusion and disintegration occurring within the AKP. We have seen examples of this in the past: ANAP and the True Path Party (DYP), both went through serious disintegration, and some people did not even take part in this, in fact they distanced themselves from politics. It wouldn’t be right to see the future of the AKP as being similar to an old ANAP or DYP, at least during this phase, as long as Erdoğan is present, this party will always have a certain strength; but it is clear that after the stinging defeat experienced on the June 23, the way has been paved open for this party that is newly being formed. They waited for this moment and as far as can be seen, they wanted this defeat, and maybe they worked towards this defeat taking place, the roads have truly been separated.

When we mention these new parties, the past comes to mind, and the period of Erdoğan and his friends breaking off from the National Outlook (Milli Görüş) Movement comes to mind, and similar comparisons are also further being made. I am a journalist that followed that period very closely; I was the one that named the movement that began within the Welfare Party (RP) under Erdoğan’s leadership the “reformist wing.” At first, they came against this quite harshly; Erdoğan foremost, “There are no such separations among us”, they didn’t accept it, they kept their distance from the phase “reformist.”

During that time, I separated this as “reformists and traditionalists.” During that time, even though the RP was on the rise, it didn’t catch many journalists attention because they were always keeping distant and looking at the RP in an incriminating manner, no one was trying to understand them. But when you try and understand, and when you go into it a little bit, when you speak with RP actors, you can see this separation, this differentiation. And during that time, the reformists obtained a certain amount of power. During the first congress of the Virtue Party (FP), they presented Abdullah Gül as a candidate opposing Recai Kutan and eventually when FP was shut down, they formed their own party, the AKP.

It is not right to compare what is happening today to all of this; because, there is a very serious difference. During that time, the reformists under Erdoğan’s leadership, within a movement growing and heading towards power, saw that Erbakan and the old committee, meaning this traditionalist team, were standing in the way of them heading towards power, they were seen as obstacles. And thinking that they were the ones adding true dynamism to the party – and they were right – they complained that not enough power was being shared with them.

The reformists were actually coming against Erbakan and his close circle consisting of a team of the traditionalist elderly – and this was pretty hard.  But there is a complete opposite situation today: Today, there is no movement that is heading towards power; there is a movement falling away from power: I think that this is the most important difference. Today, the AKP is losing. The RP was winning – it was trying to block the government that was shutting down the party, deeming the party leaders illegal, throwing Tayyip Erdoğan in jail etc. But despite all this, this movement took off incredibly, came into power alone and ruled over the country for years – at least a part of this party. Now the situation is the exact opposite; there is a movement falling from power. Therefore, the disintegration here is a completely different type of disintegration, to slow down this fall, to break the impact of this fall, and efforts in order for the still ripe potential of the AKP to not be for nothing, these efforts are being made. But to what extent will it be successful? This is a different aspect.

Another incomparable aspect is this: Erbakan and Erdoğan’s leadership. There are certainly a lot of similarities, Erbakan was the Muslim preacher (hoca), everything, leader of that movement; but Erbakan was never able to lead this movement in the way that Erdoğan has done in the last four-five years. There was always someone present; Recai Kutan, Şevket Kazan, Oğuzhan Asiltürk… There were a lot of names, maybe there was prejudice against them because they were old, but each of them had their own weight and each of them all separately accepted Erbakan’s authority. But there is a serious difference between Erbakan’s authoritarianism and Erdoğan’s authoritarianism.

Today, we can’t talk of another name within the AKP. I was about to say Binali Yıldırım, but after his latest loss in Istanbul, he is in a very bad place, he finds himself in a very hard situation. There is no one other than Erdoğan left within the AKP, and it is for this reason we are talking about Berat Albayrak and Süleyman Soylu, people who don’t really have serious weight, who have a certain weight only because of their relationship with Erdoğan, because of the permission that Erdoğan has given them. But most of the names within the RP, a lot of the elderly men/brothers within that management had been a part of the Milli Görüş (Nationalist Outlook) Movement from the beginning, were people that had walked the road with Erbakan for years, each of them had their own weight, their own respectable demeanour. Right now, all the weight is on Erdoğan, all the prestige is on Erdoğan, and the bill, too, is in front of only Erdoğan.

There is no chance of Erdoğan passing this bill onto anyone else.  I evaluated this a little yesterday, I said that the suggestion that “Erdoğan is good, his inner circle is bad” is really bad. Let’s say, he changed the cabinet in the days ahead of us, he will not be forwarding a bill to anyone when he replaces some people with others – names that even journalists such as I who are interested in politics don’t remember because we don’t see them anywhere, they are not like old ministers, they haven’t come and gone to elections, they are names that have appeared due to appointment, I don’t know most of their names personally. We know that the one responsible for the Istanbul elections are probably not a minister etc, we are face to face with such a situation.

In reality, the break away that is most probably going to be experienced within the AKP, is completely different, a lot harder than what happened to the RP or – the FP. The chance of success is a lot less. So, you can break away from a party that is rising/growing; you can pave the ways through certain barriers that the movement itself has created, just as Erdoğan and his friends had done. But it is very difficult for you to break away from a movement that is experiencing its downfall and form a new successful movement; because this bill will also be addressed to you as well. Thus, whether it is Ali Babacan, or Ahmet Davutoğlu, whenever we mention their names – especially the opposing camp – we are reminded of the responsibility they had for things that have been experienced, especially when Davutoğlu is mentioned, these ‘searching for parties’ isn’t really seen as very sincere.

Of course, we could say this: They are already from a different camp, they don’t need people from opposing camps, their problem is with the AKP base, to take the AKP positions. If this happens – and it might – these parties will already be born with disabilities. Because, the chance of homes or parties that will be formed from the AKP base in AKP’s plot of land, is only as much as the area it embodies – and we are seeing how this area is contracting. So, if Ali Babacan, or Ahmet Davutoğlu, or someone else, if they want to break away from the AKP and do something that will have an impact, they must also find ways to appeal to those who are outside of the AKP fractions as well.

On the other hand, if they go down a road in which they try to divide the pie, and let’s say the pie can’t be divided into three; the pie that the three people are sharing will have actually gotten a lot smaller, and other parts of the pie maybe shared with others, they’ll come and take it. There is no possibility of keeping this inside. And if images of this divide, break down, disintegration come out into the open – and it’s understood that these will truly come about in the following days – a lot of people will be leaving, a lot of people will be abandoning the ship, it’s already started.

What is a large part of these people saying at the moment? “This election should not have been redone, we blatantly experienced a huge change in numbers.”  We also know a lot of people who said this also said “Of course it should be redone, they stole our votes”; but they’re doing something like this, they are trying to differentiate themselves. There’s a Turkish phrase I love, “Many show the way after the car has toppled over” which interprets roughly as “it is a lot easier to give advice/be wise after an event has actually taken place.”   Now there is a toppled AKP car and there are many who are saying “This should have been done” in order to understand those responsible for the crash and to find a new car. I don’t think that a lot of these people will wane towards the new parties, they will search elsewhere, or will distance themselves from politics. 

Right now, the defeat experienced on the June 23, this stinging defeat, shows us that the AKP who is about to complete its 20. year, is facing certain hardships. When we ask the question “What can Erdoğan do here?”, there are certain rumours and these rumours suggest that, for example, “Binali Yıldırım will be appointed head of the party”, there are some that say “Binali Yıldırım will be made assistant to the president”, other than that, not much is being said; mostly there are aspects being discussed such as “Will he/can he take back Ahmet Davutoğlu?” There are some that are saying “If they hand over the economy to someone with more competence, maybe something might happen”; but just as I said to Kemal Öztürk yesterday, I think that train has long gone. Now everyone is trying to construct their own train and the question of how Erdoğan’s AKP machine stuck in the road will start again, is a serious question. And I don’t really think he can be that successful regarding these given topics. 

Yes, this is all I have to say, have a good day. 

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