Prime Minister and leader of the AKP Ahmet Davutoğlu announced Thursday that he will not be running for another term as party leader, heightening concern over the concentration of power in the hands of the president.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced today May 5 that he will not be running again for leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and will step aside as prime minister, increasing concern over the rising authoritarian control of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The party is to hold an extraordinary congress on May 22 to elect a new leader.
At the AKP headquarters in Ankara today, Davutoğlu stressed that he had carried out his duties as a “strong” prime minister to the best of his ability. Possibly referring to rumours of a rift in his relationship with President Erdoğan, Davutoğlu said “Our relationship of loyalty with the president will continue.”
“A strong AKP government will continue to lead for the next four years, and there should be no doubt about safety and stability,” said Davutoğlu.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Istanbul-based journalist Andrew Finkel suggested that Davutoğlu had developed into too strong a prime minister and was reined in by President Erdoğan. This growing independence appears to be the primary motivation for this move by the president, who it was said differed with the prime minister on key issues such as renewing the Kurdish peace process and reforming the presidency.
Davutoğlu was said to be showing reluctance to replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one, a key project of President Erdoğan. The Turkish media has been speculating on a policy split between the two for some months now, though according to party practice, the rift has been kept underwraps.
Davutoğlu, a former academic and professor of International Relations, started his political career as a foreign policy adviser to the AKP before being appointed foreign minister. He became prime minister last year when Erdoğan was elected president.
It appears that Davutoğlu was pushed rather than jumped so to speak, as he noted that his decision to resign was not a “choice, but a necessity”, following discussions with the president and after the stripping of his authority to appoint provincial party leaders.
The end of Davutoğlu’s political career cements Erdoğan’s power over the party and the country, and may pave the way for early parliamentary elections, giving the AKP an opportunity to secure the supermajority it needs to change the constitution and create a presidential system. Party representatives have said that there is no need for this, however such statements may be viewed as attempts to calm already-jittery markets.
Given the President’s control over the military, the media and judiciary, and now with the likely appointment of a malleable prime minister, critics’ fears of a total shift to authoritarian rule are looking increasingly valid.