Who is the Real Enemy of Erdoğan’s Presidential System?


It has become crystal clear over recent weeks that Mr. Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, is nearing his end game. For some time now he has made no bones about his agenda, which is to convert the parliamentary system into a “Turkish” or “Erdoğan” type presidential system, although the true nature of this move remains unknown and shrouded in mystery.

President Erdoğan addresses the press following the seemingly forced resignation of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu

Source: The Press Project

Intuitively though we can predict its guidelines of the proposed presidential system based on Mr. Erdoğan’s previous policies: heavy handed, hegemonic and unilateral, a one-man show. In accordance with this purpose, he has been passivizing all the political and social figures who maintain some power over him. And what a job he’s done. It’s clear that no political structure, nor social group in Turkey has the ability to thwart his inexpungible expansion of power.

Under these circumstances, it is now possible to feel his oppressive influence across the board; the bureaucracy, parliament, the judiciary, the media and civil society. He has almost established his authoritarian hegemony totally. Although at first glance, it appears he is unstoppable, it now seems that that Mr. Erdoğan has become his own worst enemy: his anger, ambition and inferiority effacing almost everything and destroying even that which he has built, his own party. The last victim of which was the prime minister, Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu.

The Abnormality of the Norm

Turkey has been passing through a tragic and unique moment in political history. Rumours were widespread over the past few months that Mr. Davutoğlu soon would be gone. Moreover, just four days before Davutoğlu’s resignation, a new internet blog by an anonymous hard-core Erdoğanist exposed all breaking points in the growing rift between the two leaders.

According to the post, Davutoğlu had “betrayed” Erdoğan by collaborating with the Western powers and their “agents” who conspire against Erdoğan. The two met on the 4th of May, according to a Turkish official who spoke on condition of anonymity, in order to discuss this monumental decision, which was yet to be announced publicly. On the 5th of May, all political grapevines and insider information came true. We were told that although Mr. Davutoğlu and the AKP, with their regained parliamentary majority, had won the right to run the country for four years after the November snap elections, Davutoğlu announced that there would be a surprise snap party congress on 22nd of May to chose the new party leader and Prime Minister, but that he himself would not run.

Tellingly, Davutoğlu told the on looking press that “this is not his decision but a certain necessity”. It was obvious to all that Davutoğlu’s departure occurred amid a disagreement between the two men over the President’s insatiable drive for power. Yet it was also ironic because just 20 months ago, Erdoğan had favoured Davutoğlu over former President, Abdullah Gül. The main reasons for this choice were the perceived loyalty and relatively low-profile of Davutoğlu as opposed to existing statesman Gül. It seemed that Davutoğlu’s low profile was not low enough however, as Erdoğan now seeks to appoint a new candidate, likely the antithesis to the charismatic leader profile of the President.

There were further reasons prompting or pushing Davutoğlu’s decision to resign. The first and the most logical one was Erdoğan’s preference for a low-profile prime minister who will not overshadow his leadership and charisma. Lesser known and more illogical was Davutoğlu’s recent deal with the EU and proficiency in German and English which may have disturbed Erdoğan, a man of anti-intellectual ambitions who wants to dominate the political and social arena in Turkey alone. Additionally, whereas Erdoğan has been falling out of favour with West due to his authoritarian policies, Davutoğlu’s accommodations in regards to the EU deal had begun to make a strong impression outside of Turkish boarders. With this in mind, it seems that the next “low-profile” prime minister will not be a linguist, nor will he befriend foreign leaders, unlike Davutoğlu, and thus Erdoğan will take foreign policy into his own hands.

The second and the biggest breaking point between two figures was over the presidential system. Davutoğlu’s relatively high profile as prime minister might have delayed system transition. Armed with this knowledge, we can know one thing for sure: the new prime minister’s main mission will be to drive forward Erdoğan’s presidential agenda and rule under his shadow.

In any case, with Davutoğlu gone, and neither the AKP nor Turkish citizens able to chose the new prime minister, Erdoğan will unilaterally decide, once again surpassing the constitutional restrictions ostensibly limiting his power.

Normally, in Turkey, prime ministers leave their posts because they lost an election, or they the majority of the seats in the parliament due to a break down in their party, or, in the past, they were coerced to abandon their post by the force of a military coup d’état.

A great many people have been seeing this situation as Erdoğan’s coup d’état, which I strongly disagree with. Indeed, the relation between Mr. Erdoğan and other political figures is very abnormal, but the affair with Davutoğlu’s position is normal. Mr. Erdoğan gave the seat, and he took it away. Normal and simple, but the question is that how long will it continue like that?

Who is the Real Enemy?

At the end of the day, Erdoğan put Davutoğlu out to pasture, likewise most of his former colleagues and allies, and he is going at it alone. He stays focused on the target by establishing new enemies, traitors and a state of exceptions, because that is the only way by which he can establish his authoritarian hegemony. In other words, his political methodology is very simple; conceiving exceptional situations and enemies of the state (read: Erdoğan) and disassociating the country from them. Despite being both basic and simple, this methodology exhausts the country and isolates the president. From this point of view, I cannot help asking the question: who is the real enemy of Erdoğan? The Turkish public, his party, the world, or himself?

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