Turkish President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Aug. 21 announced Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as his successor. After a final, four-hour meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Central Executive Committee, Erdogan said, “Davutoglu’s determination to fight against the ‘parallel state’ has played an important role” in his selection.
Erdogan contended that US-based Sunni cleric Fethullah Gulen’s followers had established a “parallel state” in Turkey, especially in security and judiciary bodies, after the AKP came under judicial investigation in December 2013 for allegedly taking part in a massive corruption and bribery ring. “I believe we’re going to carry out this struggle together. My being president will not disrupt this struggle [against the Gulenist establishment],” Erdogan said.
Noting that Davutoglu’s real challenge will start after Aug. 27, when he is likely to be elected at the party’s extraordinary congress that will choose the next chairman, Erdogan said, “I may be ahead of myself, but Davutoglu is also the candidate to be the prime minister of the 62nd government of our country.”
Many in the opposition parties argue that Erdogan violated the law by attending today’s meeting. “The moment the Supreme Election Board announced [Aug. 15] that Erdogan had won the presidential election, that announcement should have been published the next day in the Official Gazette, and he should have resigned from all his duties as chairman and prime minister,” Riza Turkmen, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy and a former European Court of Human Rights judge, told Al-Monitor. “This is creating a chaotic scene.”
Ersan Sen, an Istanbul-based lawyer specializing in constitutional and criminal law, disagrees. “The law does not clearly state anything to the disadvantage of the prime minister. There is nothing in the law that says a president-elect prime minister should resign from his party chairman duties, or as a deputy. He is not an ordinary deputy, he is the prime minister,” Sen told Al-Monitor. “In the absence of such clarity in the law, there is legally nothing to prevent Erdogan from fulfilling his prime minister duties until the time he takes oath in parliament as the next president of the country.” Sen added: “But if the current president [Abdullah Gul] had used his constitutional right and announce the dissolution of the current cabinet of ministers once the prime minister was elected president, Erdogan would not have been able to [continue to] occupy his seat as the prime minister. He did not do that, and there is no legitimacy issue for Erdogan for doing what he does.”
The opposition said Davutoglu's becoming prime minister will cause the country further trouble. Erdogan Toprak, the main opposition CHP deputy chairman, said, “It will be best to say that [Erdogan] assigned Davutoglu to fill his seat as prime minister. With his failed foreign policy, it is proof that the country has already stepped into a worse period.” Semih Yalcin, a Nationalist Action Party (MHP) deputy and a member of the national defense commission in parliament, echoed the same sentiment. “Davutoglu is an unsuccessful brand. He is assigned to this position so that Erdogan can continue to control his dominance in the party. From this perspective, this is good news for the opposition parties.”
Other analysts in the Ankara beltway noted that Erdogan continued to refer to party politics by using the phrase “our,” and stressed that the constitution makes it an obligation for the president to be divorced from all organic ties with the party. Erdogan also stressed the importance of creating a new constitution. He said earlier that the party should win at least 330 seats in parliament in the next general election scheduled for 2015 — which is enough majority to take it to a referendum. “I do not believe that Erdogan will openly campaign for Davutoglu in the next election campaign. If he does that, he would violate the constitution and that would have political and judicial ramifications,” Sen told Al-Monitor.
Turkmen expressed hope that Erdogan would abide by the rule of law.
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu also announced that he wouldn't be attending Erdogan's oath of office ceremony in parliament on Aug. 28, and stressed that he left his party members free to decide on their own whether they attended or not.
Invited to the podium to make his first speech as the apparent prime minister in waiting, Davutoglu defined the AKP as a “restoration movement” and promised that it would continue the path “without a pause or a break.” Davutoglu also said that there will be no grumbling in the AKP with his selection, for this was a widely consulted decision.
However, Western diplomats told Al-Monitor that while consultations did take place, AKP delegates would not be free to choose their next chairman in next week’s extraordinary congress.