The Master’s (Ahmet Davutoğlu’s) past, today and the Future Party

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Translated by Melissa Clissold

The Future Party, under the leadership of Ahmet Davutoğlu, has arisen essentially as a Davutoğlu party. Therefore, the future of the party will also be determined by Davutoğlu.

Hello, good day. Yesterday I watched the founding ceremony of the Future Party and I explained my first impressions from our office in Ankara. Now, after having thought about it a little bit more, after watching Davutoğlu’s speech and the programme, I want to express a few more of my thoughts and observations in a more succinct manner: Firstly, this is also why I have broadcast this episode as “The Master’s past, today and the Future Party”; because this is an Ahmet Davutoğlu party.

And Ahmet Davutoğlu has been a Master for a very long time; since I have known him, not from when I first heard his name but when I actually first got to meet him – and this was at the beginning of the 90s, maybe a little earlier even -, he was always regarded as a Master. Ahmet Davutoğlu was one of the few names in social sciences that was known amongst the conservative fractions in the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. He then built his political career upon this. But, amongst conservative environments, Ahmet Davutoğlu has been somewhat a legend for a long time. Was it a good thing that he got involved in politics or not? Let me put it this way: Those who know him closely, have always said that he had some sort of political motivation. When I met him, I always thought he would remain at university. But later I bumped into him at the Copenhagen Summit where discussions were being held regarding Turkey’s entry to the European Union. I was there as a journalist, and he had just been appointed Principal Advisor to the prime minister. Abdullah Gül was the prime minister at the time; Tayyip Erdoğan was still banned at that time. Davutoğlu entered politics from that moment on and step by step constructed his political career. This led him to becoming prime minister and then AKP chairman. He then descended, and now he is trying to ascend once more. There is an Ahmet Davutoğlu present here who wants to rule over the country. The word “Master” is somewhat nostalgic, but we know that certain people in his close environments still refer to him as “Master.”

This is Ahmet Davutoğlu’s party. When I watched everything yesterday, as far as I’ve seen, there are some people I know, some I do not, but even though most of these people have a political background coming from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – and there are those who do not have this background too – I believe that the reason they have all gathered around such a party is because of Ahmet Davutoğlu. This, from its first moment, is a leadership party. However, there is always a stress on the concept of a “common mind” in his speech and party programmes.

This must be stressed specifically: There is a leader – Davutoğlu -, but there is also a request for a common mind. This actually reminds us of the AKP’s early years. It was clear back then that Tayyip Erdoğan was the leader, but there was always discussion around common mind and collective structure. Tayyip Erdoğan was somewhat the first among equals. No one had questioned his leadership. Especially after becoming Mayor of Istanbul and then his unjust treatment in prison, almost justified his leadership naturally as if it was his right.

However, when I look at the weight of Davutoğlu’s leadership in this new party, I can see that it is more than Erdoğan’s when the AKP was first formed. This is my observation.  Of course, Erdoğan was leader, but Bülent Arınç, Abdullah Gül, and up to a certain period Abdüllatif Şener and even certain ministers, group deputy chairman held certain weight within the party. If necessary, in certain situations – and the March 1st Memorandum is the clearest example of this – they were able to insist on policies completely opposing Erdoğan and could get him to take a step back. I do not think that the Future Party will be like this. I believe that the Davutoğlu’s leadership, first and foremost, is the unifying element of this party. He was the only one who spoke at the meeting yesterday, and the founding members were introduced. This is what the meeting consisted of. Someone will definitely speak on behalf of the party – and this was the case during the preparations for founding the party too.

We couldn’t host Ahmet Davutoğlu as a guest at Medyascope, but we were able to host some prominent spokespeople from his party. I just said that we couldn’t host him. Yesterday I told him that “I hope you’ll be able to come to our humble abode.” And he said “From now on we’re going to be discussing everything.” This means, we didn’t call out to him at the right time. So, now that the party has been formed, we hope and expect that he’ll come here. Never mind, let’s open and close this topic as a parenthesis.

The fact that Davutoğlu will hold the weight here, will impact the future of this party – which is fitting for the “Future” party. Of course, a lot of people will be talking about Davutoğlu’s past whilst talking about the Future Party. Especially his political past. The issue that is brought up the most from his time as foreign minister is the Syrian issue. Other than that, there will of course be discussions regarding how the “zero problems with neighbours” policy turned on its head, his foreign policies, and especially what he did and didn’t do during his time as prime minister especially regarding the incidents in the Southeast and the chaotic time during the June-November elections in Turkey. It will be remembered, before forming this party, he talked about these himself and some people imagined this to be a sort of confession or revelation. People thought that he would disclose what happened. Yet Davutoğlu claimed that he was the true hero of the state during that period. He stressed that he was the essential actor during that period, not someone who should be criticised.

When we look at everything, it is clear that the aspects that will come up the most will be regarding that period and the Kurdish issue. Why? Because when we look at the main issues that Davutoğlu and his party brings up regarding Turkey, the concept of peace is one that is brought to the forefront. The reconstruction of democracy, the re-development of fundamental rights and freedoms, the construction of a state of law and many of these doors lead to the Kurdish issue and we can openly say that this is an issue, a problem. As far as I know, this has been determined as an issue in their programme –  they are both the same thing. There are still very serious problems regarding this issue.

We can see that there are certain libertarian approaches in Davutoğlu’s speech and the party programme, we can see that they are leaning towards trying to resolve this problem. But I do not find this very satisfactory, for Kurds especially. Or let me put it this way:

I have not seen an initiative that will be able to convince Kurds who had a problem with the AKP and Davutoğlu during his time as prime minister. Of course, there is an element here that is being described through democracy and freedoms, a claim for solutions; yet, when that topic is being discussed you always come across the definition of the “mind of the state.” I made a note of this yesterday during Davutoğlu’s speech – I forgot to mention it in yesterday’s broadcast; but I believe that what Davutoğlu said yesterday in his speech regarding “The honour of people, the conscience of the nation and the mind of the state” is important.  The one of these that I have thought about the most is: “The mind of the state.” In fact, I told this to two of my conservative journalist colleagues right after the speech. I said that this movement has no way of freeing itself from the right; and they said “Well of course, Turkey is right-wing anyway.”

Of course, they may want to be constructing everything within a right-wing frame, but I believe that constantly referring to the mind of the state is actually unfavourable for someone that defines themselves as right-wing. In the end, when we observe the final years of the AKP, this period in which democracy, the state of law and fundamental rights and freedoms have been put aside, the aspect of ‘the mind of the state’ was always put forward. Of course, there are many libertarian perspectives in Davutoğlu’s speech and party programme . But, when you put forward the idea of the ‘mind of the state’ as a factor, you can feel that many things may be given upon for the sake of this – and we observed this a lot during Davutoğlu’s time as prime minister. I wanted to stress this in particular.

 Here, at one point during his speech he stressed the famous balance of security-freedom and how the balance between them is very important. There was a lot of academic and political science jargon used in this speech as well. He spoke of the balance between tradition and modernism, the past and the future…

But I – how should I put this – this is not what I imagined – if he had actually founded the party I dreamt of then it probably wouldn’t even receive one percent of the vote, so he shouldn’t but let me say it anyway: for people who 1) voted for the AKP but are now disturbed by its course, 2) for those who didn’t vote for the AKP but are uncomfortable by its existence but who are also unsatisfied by the opposition parties, the issues discussed here are not really enough and won’t surpass comments other than “Well, ok then.” There is no stress on anything at the moment. This is what I witnessed. Maybe it’ll happen with time. But of course, for that to happen, you must state who you are criticising and why openly.

This may happen with time, we will see; but when we look at this as the beginning, when we look at the policies of this party, I still believe  that there is a somewhat timidity. This timidity is not timidity regarding Erdoğan. I want to stress this in particular! I believe that there is something else going on here. From Davutoğlu’s perspective, beyond Erdoğan, there is a concern to not startle the state. And in some respects, I can say this very quickly that there is a claim here which is being put forward: “The tradition of state in Turkey must be continued through democratisation, it needs to be a freer state. But there should not be a disengagement within that state tradition and Erdoğan cannot do this, but I can!” This is my observation. The stress on Atatürk  –which is not wrong–, the stress on secularism –which I don’t think is wrong–, the stress on trying to resolve the Kurdish issue –these are also not wrong–, but when you put these all together, the message for society, beyond calling out to the conscience of the nation, I believe that Davutoğlu’s claim regarding the mind of the state, may come to the forefront a lot more at certain times.

I have to give it to political scientist Ülkü Doğanay, we bumped into each other at the Medyascope office – she contributes to Medyascope often-, I benefited gravely from the discussion we had and I want to thank her. The fact that she reminded me of my own note regarding “the mind of the state” and how serious  this issue was, allowed me to shape this broadcast.

Yes, there is a brand-new right-wing party. This right-wing party and Davutoğlu will not try to show itself as a right-wing party, but as a party that talks to everyone but for me it is a right-wing movement. I believe it will have problems trying to encompass everyone, especially with regards to the Kurdish issue and I want to add a note here: There are a few numbers of Kurdish members within the party, and I know some of these people. I can say in fact that I “unfortunately” know some of them. They don’t seem like a very strong team. There’s no need to name names, but I didn’t really see anyone who would really be able to influence Kurds outside of those who support the AKP; no one really gave me the impression that they will be able to do enough regarding this issue.

The party, in addition to claiming to be able to rule over Turkey, it should be able to reach Kurds beyond the Kurds voting for the AKP. It seems that regarding this point, Ali Babacan’s party may be different according to information that is being passed around. But we will have to wait and see. In the end, I believe that Davutoğlu will be able to continue his presence in Turkish politics with this party for a long time. What votes he’ll receive, how, with whom will he form alliances, where and what – I do not know. However, I do believe that Davutoğlu’s party will play an important role in the period after Erdoğan – which I think is not that far off. In fact, we are already going through that period but because there is no one who has won in the face of his loss, Erdoğan keeps on postponing this period.

But this role will be defined based on what the party and Davutoğlu does and says, how Babacan’s party will come about, how it will discuss certain issues, what sorts of steps it will take within the period of the fall of the AKP – and I really do not think they have much of a chance, I may be mistaken – how the other parties and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) continues on. The way it is now, it looks as if the Future Party will play an important role in Turkey’s near future within the political future. But there are I believe a lot more steps that it needs to take for it to become a wide, encompassing, central popular party.

I want to end with a final note: During certain discussions I had with people close to the Master but not within the founders of the party, I can see that many people are clear about the opportunities and the problems that the Future Party has come across; this is an interesting situation. Really, there are certain names who are really good at interpreting politics – young and middle-aged. If they are able to impact the party processes and organisation, and bring forth recommendations etc. and if they are embraced actively by the party, then I believe its path will open further. But by saying “I’ll say certain things to keep people satisfied to a certain degree, I won’t make very brash comments, let’s take it step by step”, of course there is a way to go, but it may remain behind what is expected. I say this once more: It’s going to be very important what and how Babacan’s party will explains. Yes, that is all I have to say. Good day.

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