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With or without Erdogan: Turkey is losing chances not to fall into abyss

Prime Minister Davutoglu resigns with his head down. Photo: bloomberg.com

Few people expected that the leader of Turkey’s ruling force, Justice and Development Party (JDP), Ahmet Davutoglu will resign now that his country is facing quite hard times. In Turkey, which remains a parliamentary republic, the leader of the ruling force is also prime minister. So, Davutoglu can no longer be prime minister, which means that the Cabinet has to be reshuffled. Today, in the face of serious internal and external challenges, Turkey needs urgent consolidation of its rulers. But there is a man that thinks otherwise...

It was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who forced Davutoglu to resign. On May 4, JDP decided to meet on May 22 and it is already clear that Davutoglu will resign on that day. Erdogan’s words that Davutoglu should not forget how he got to the post of prime minister were a clear signal.

Such words would be humiliating for any politician. So, that was a guarantee for Erdogan that Davutoglu would not resist. Experts keep wondering what has set Erdogan and Davutoglu by the ears but they neglect one important fact: Turkey is not presidential yet – as Erdogan would love it to be – so, as Prime Minister, Davutoglu had legal and political grounds to resist. He might lack real resources for such a step but, constitutionally, he had some toeholds. But Davutoglu preferred to comply as his resistance might cause JDP’s split with all ensuing consequences.

Erdogan’s key trump here is that his vote was decisive for Davutoglu’s appointment as Prime minister. In this light, his words sounded like a “political slap in the face.”

There were a number of factors that caused Erdogan to dismiss Davutoglu. Let’s try to analyze them.

One of the factors is that Erdogan ceased to trust Davutoglu and there was a specific reason for that. They in the West have already got tired of Erdogan’s rule and are giving more and more attention to Davutoglu. Erdogan could not but react as he has quite different vision of who his successor should be.

One of the versions is that Erdogan played with forecasts: former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is having quite good chances to be the next US president and she is on quite good terms with Davutoglu. So, her entry into the White House might give the Turkish prime minister the upper hand.

One more female leader Angela Merkel was also benevolent to the Turkish prime minister as Davutoglu played a big role in the migrant and visa waiver deals. And even though in Syria Davutoglu was not so successful, Merkel and her European colleagues saw calm and predictable Davutoglu as a good alternative to impulsive and unpredictable Erdogan.

The internal factors were decisive here. Below are the major ones:

- Today Erdogan is at de facto war with the Turkish Kurds. Davutoglu was among those who objected to this policy. And here the prime minister enjoyed support of many military commanders, who are reluctance to fight their own people. For Erdogan it would be impossible to get rid of all of them. So, it was much easier for him to remove their mouthpiece.  

- Turkey is facing one more crisis, a constitutional one. Erdogan has proved unable to fit the regime to his authoritarian needs.

His party won the last parliamentary elections but failed to gain enough seats for being able to push his plan to turn Turkey into a presidential republic. There are no reliable proofs that Davutoglu was against Erdogan’s plan but there are some signs of this.

Just a few days before his dismissal Davutoglu said that Turkey would remain secular despite all objections. “In the new constitution secularism will be a basic principle,” Davutoglu said on Apr 27.

It was Davutoglu’s response to Ismail Kahraman’s initiative to make Islam the core of the new constitution.

And it’s clear whose side Erdogan took in this controversy.

- Erdogan’s authoritarianism may also be a factor. The Turkish president had certain grounds for suspecting Davutoglu of being unfaithful and one of them was the prime minister’s reaction to the arrest of three Turkish scientists. (1)

Cihan quoted Davutoglu as saying before his visit to Jordan that he had no legal grounds for arresting the people pending a court verdict. He said that the state can force a person to pay a fine but it cannot limit his freedom to speak and move. “As a scientist who suffered oppression during the coup of 1997, I cannot accept any restrictions of the freedom to think,” Davutoglu said.

When a government official is dismissed, it means that he already has a successor. The most probable candidate to replace Davutoglu as prime minister is Binali Yildirim, Turkish Transport Minister since 2002.

Yildirim is an ethnic Kurd, which can be a good factor for Erdogan in his fight with the Turkish Kurds. A loyal Kurd as prime minister and potential successor is a perfect chance for Erdogan to keep his country united and to save it from a civil war.

Davutoglu only seems to have no political ambitions. Yes, he is an intriguer but he may have some “double bottom.” No coincidence that a few days before Erdogan’s decision Turkish mass media appeared with some dirt against the Yildirim family.

Opposition Sozcu daily made public the adventures of Yildirim’s son in Asian casinos. “While they are talking about faith and religion, their sons are playing away whole fortunes. Erkan Yildirim, the son of Erdogan’s right hand, Transport Minister Binali Yildirim has been seen playing roulette in a casino in Syngapore,” Sozcu said.

It seems that Davutoglu just tried to be proactive as he was certainly aware of Erdogan’s plans. But he failed as the attempt to discredit Yildirim played against his own self.

There obviously was a complex of factors that caused Erdogan to make such a decision. One of the factors is emotions. Erdogan’s psychoemotional state alarms people not only in Turkey but also in the West. More and more foreign mass media are beginning to mention paranoia when talking about Erdogan.

Whatever Erdogan’s diagnosis and whoever the new prime minister may be, it is a fact that Turkey is heading for a system crisis and that one staff change cannot help it to solve all of its problems: the war with the Kurds, the turmoil in the army, the reproaches of the West, the tensions with Russia and Iran.

Only one staff change could really help here - as Turkey with Erdogan and Turkey without him are two different stories.

(1) Turkish scientists Esra Mungan, Musaffer Kaya and Kivanc Ersoy were arrested on Mar 16 after publicly criticizing the Turkish authorities for imposing round-the-clock curfew in some mostly Kurdish districts in the southeast of Turkey.

EADaily’s Middle East Bureau

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