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Internal strife heats up in Turkey’s ruling party

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fury at the release of two prominent journalists could be only the tip of the iceberg in a simmering power struggle.
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In late February, Turkey’s Constitutional Court paved the way for the release of two prominent journalists, arrested over reports of Turkish arms shipments to Syria, in a landmark ruling that infuriated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sparked fresh internal spats in the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Several days later, police raided a leading business group, Boydak Holding, detaining three owners and a senior executive on charges that the company financed the Gulen movement, a former AKP ally that is now labeled as a terrorist organization. The two events may seem unrelated, but they could well be linked in the context of the in-house dissent brewing against Erdogan in AKP ranks. And the person who provides the link is none other than Erdogan’s former right-hand man, ex-President Abdullah Gul, who is now close to the dissidents.

To better understand how the link works, it is worth recalling what unfolded about a month ago. Former parliament Speaker and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, one of the AKP heavyweights who led the party’s creation, emerged from the sidelines of politics with a bang. As Al-Monitor reported Feb. 16, he heaped bold criticism on the AKP and Erdogan, jolting the party. Erdogan hit back, scorning Arinc as “that man” and accusing him of dishonesty. Though the storm seemed to ease after Erdogan and Gul met Feb. 10, Al-Monitor stressed at the time that “no one has stepped back from their positions” and “the unrest within the AKP is not over.” Indeed, less than a month later a new storm was brewing.

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