The Master against the Chief

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In the speech he delivered in Elazığ over the weekend, Ahmet Davutoğlu upped his criticism and covertly targeted Erdoğan. Davutoğlu, “the Master” (Hoca), whose warnings and criticisms about the party have been overlooked, seems to be likely to part ways with Erdoğan, “the Chief” (Reis) and found his own party.

Click CC in the bottom right corner for English subtitles.
Broadcast date: 1 July 2019

Translation: Melissa Clissold / Subtitles: Egemen Gök

Hello, good day and good week. It seems like we will be discussing certain break offs from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) for a long while. Because it’s getting a lot more serious. Most recently, Ahmet Davutoğlu spoke in a meeting organised in Elazığ. There are already different meetings like this one being organised across the country. He made a much harsher speech than I expected in Elazığ.

Because, for Ahmet Davutoğlu, from the moment that he started writing his manifesto, the thought of him wanting to stay within the AKP, to hold a strong position within the AKP was always at the forefront. I always thought in this way also, and I know a lot of people think in this way too. Yet, his criticisms are increasing from day to day and even if he does not mention Erdoğan directly, he is still targeting Erdoğan.

Bringing up the family issue in his Elazığ speech is an example of this. To bring up the fact that the AKP is not a ‘one-man party’ is an example of this. To use a French expression, he has not yet put the ‘point’ on top of the ‘i’, but he has started to write the letter ‘i’. And he is coming up against Erdoğan in an inevitable manner, he is starting to criticise Erdoğan. Therefore, just as I mentioned in the title of this broadcast, there is a film being staged here called “The Master against the Chief”. Another film is with regards to the party that Ali Babacan is preparing for which is supported by Abdullah Gül. Even if Davutoğlu is criticising from within the party, he is drifting further apart by the day.

He mentions this himself. That he has spoken several times with the President, but has not been able to come to any sort of conclusion, that he has made certain warnings to no avail, and he says that trolls keep attacking him because of all this. And we can see that, even if he doesn’t mention his name, he holds the President responsible for these troll attacks. Davutoğlu’s position may be described as the following: “I have put in as much effort as possible in order to restructure the party, to take the party back to its early bright days in line with its founding principles. Yet, because I have not got anything in return for all of this, I am continuing on my own.”

It looks like this in his Elazığ speech. Before this broadcast, I spoke with some people that I know are close to Davutoğlu. No one denies anything. There is no one saying “There’s no such thing, why are you making this up?” But everyone is postponing the discussion. Timing, here, is probably of the essence. And it is probably Ahmet Davutoğlu that will determine the timing of this himself. Wherever Ahmet Davutoğlu goes, he brings old members of parliament, old party leaders with him. These change from time to time, but certain names are beside him at all times. This shows us that he is acting within a team. But there is also another cadre other than this one.

The cadre that Davutoğlu trusts the most are generally those who have academic backgrounds, have worked in the Foundation for Political Economic and Social Research (SETA) or has been Davutoğlu’s student, have had a good education, knows foreign languages. Some of them have actively participated within the AKP whilst some have not shown their political identities as much.

Ahmet Davutoğlu is probably bringing this team beside him. There may be enough people, not only to form a political party, but also to form a department, faculty of a university. It looks like this will be an interesting party, if Davutoğlu forms this, it looks like there will be as many academics as politicians too. What’s Davutoğlu saying? We addressed some of things he said before in former broadcasts. There are always references to the founding principles, ideals and operations of the AKP. He is talking about a ‘return to the essence.’ But he himself probably knows that it is impossible for the AKP to return to its “golden age.” A lot of things have changed – with time -; especially in the latest period, with Erdoğan holding on to as much as power as possible, a lot of antipathy has grown against the AKP and Erdoğan in the bases of society that do not support the AKP.

And for those within the AKP, lower income, middle class and even a lot of high-income people also feel uncomfortable about this. It is not possible to start all over again without pretending that none of this has happened. It’s not very realistic. He needs to talk about the future. But there are always references to the past when talking about the future. This is problematic. Another problem of course is that Davutoğlu has been the boss with regards to the foreign policies of the AKP for a long time and Turkey, and the AKP, will have to pay a heavy price with regards the Syrian crisis and Davutoğlu’s policies coming to life – they will continue to pay.

In an interesting manner, those who support the AKP and Erdoğan are pointing their fingers at Davutoğlu. And Davutoğlu is pointing at Erdoğan. This creates a feeling that these policies aren’t being adopted by one person solely. He does not bring up Erdoğan’s name, but he probably will start to. There’s a toll to be paid again, the Syria toll. Davutoğlu is the first person that comes to mind. But he is trying to say that the actual owner of this toll is Erdoğan.

On the other hand, there is the party that Ali Babacan is forming. It’s now crystal clear that he’s going to found a party. In the broadcast we had here with Kemal Öztürk, he told us that Babacan had spoken to Erdoğan and had told him that he was going to leave the AKP. This will probably take place in the following days. Someone close to Babacan told me that this meeting wasn’t requested by Babacan, but by Erdoğan. How true is this? I’m not sure. But, according to this source, Erdoğan is hoping to appoint Babacan, like some old AKP leaders, on the boards of public banks and this was the reason that he had called Babacan, yet Babacan refused this and told Erdoğan that he would be leaving.  

In any instance, even though it is not clear who requested this meeting, it is certain that a meeting took place. And it is certain that Babacan told Erdoğan that he would be leaving. Before this broadcast, I had the chance to speak with certain people who are walking beside Babacan. They don’t deny this. They don’t deny that certain activities are taking place. They are in fact, stating that they are very busy. But they don’t want to talk about this. They are also probably thinking about timing and expecting Babacan to make the first move. In this respect, let’s send a message to Faruk Bildirici. As you know, Faruk Bildirici was the ombudsman at Hürriyet. Now, after leaving, he is continuing to write as a media ombudsman. We discuss his writings here at Medyascope. Recently with regards to this new party issue, he has asked “Is it that hard to reach Ali Babacan?” This was a valid question. But now I see that Babacan doesn’t want to talk. We have sent both Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu requests for them to come to our studio. Which one of them will accept?  Who will accept first, or will they accept at all?

There’s a factor here that needs to be stressed: When we look at this all, it seems that Ali Babacan, who has the support of Abdullah Gül, has a higher chance. It’s as if there is a general agreement. Even if ‘who’ and ‘how’ has not been expressed, those who know a little about who may be involved are thinking along these lines. Yet, Davutoğlu is the one who is making the most noise. Ali Babacan’s photos are appearing here and there; but he is not talking. As opposed to this, Davutoğlu’s voice is being expressed loud and clear. He is constantly tweeting, he is sharing his manifesto; he is organising meetings, speaking there. And each time, he is increasing his criticisms. Why is this happening? There’s a certain view that I agree with; and that is that Davutoğlu, who believes he may be less effective than the other initiative, is trying to act early, make a lot of noise, and try to be the first party to be founded that has broken away from the AKP.

Another comment – the actual question – is: Will these two movements join? The question is “Both Davutoğlu and Babacan are saying similar things; but why aren’t they joining up?” There are some that are thinking that they are actually working together. According to what I see and I know, this alliance seems quite unlikely. There’s a serious reservation from those on the Babacan front against Davutoğlu. Firstly, from Abdullah Gül. Even if Abdullah Gül says that he won’t be active in the party, we know that he will make leave his mark on this movement, and just as I mentioned in another broadcast before, he will be a somewhat sponsor to this movement. Therefore, it seems that his discordance with Davutoğlu will not make this merger possible. Both sides are working in a serious manner and both sides look as if they will challenge the AKP separately.

What is Erdoğan doing in the face of all this? He is providing certain concessions to some people to bring them closer to him – The High Advisory Board or whatever its name is, just like with examples of old speakers of the parliament, Bülent Arınç is also included within this. And you know, the first thing they’ve done is to increase salaries. And the other is the names that have been appointed to public banks. He is trying to keep this under control in one way or another. But politics is such a thing that, if any of the parties that are being formed have a bright future and look as if they will become successful, some of these people might choose to join these parties instead, and they may leave Erdoğan. But I see that even without them, these parties are very ambitious indeed. Some of the names that I have talked to were in Anatolia.  And they were openly claiming that they were working towards a new party.

What kind of thing will come out of this? Interesting things. The AKP is truly breaking apart. How will this splitting up reflect on the bases? How will it reflect in the party teams? This of course is to do with what each and every party will express, as well as when, how, to who. But I think this, I’m sure of this: Both parties will seriously damage the AKP – or both party initiatives – it is certain that they will damage the AKP. Some, those who are looking on from the outside, those against the AKP and Erdoğan, are claiming that this is a contrived fight.  

This is not a logical view, because any sort of disintegration will be against Erdoğan. It is not possible to gather power in this situation. Maybe there’ll be a chance that these two movements will join, but I don’t think so. And of course, there’s another factor: Erdoğan, by creating this new system – this presidency, this presidential government…-what is its name, I can’t enunciate it- let’s say the presidential system. By constructing the presidential system, he has created huge problems for himself – we can see this.

The AKP cannot be the sole ruling party. The AKP needs to have someone besides it. So, it allied with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Grand Unity Party (BBP). We don’t know who it will work with tomorrow. This shows us that the new parties that are to be formed will also probably form new alliances within this new political atmosphere; they are somewhat obliged to. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, if they are wise, they may be effective in the mid to long-term. There is such a probability. But of course, it’s important to stress this again:

If both Babacan and Davutoğlu’s movements turn into parties and if they turn into a brand-new Motherland Party (ANAP) – sorry! I said ANAP, oh God- I mean a brand new AKP, if they market their parties like a genuine AKP, I don’t think they’ll have a lot of chance. Can they hold on to the AKP’s legacy but also settle accounts too? It’s possible. But it’s going to be very difficult. That’s all I have to say, have a good day.

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