Erdogan Forces PM Out, Authoritarian Presidency Takes Shape in Turkey

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Middle East
Saturday, 07 May 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has announced his resignation following a bitter and atrocious power struggle with the increasingly authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Davutoglu and Erdogan held a meeting Wednesday, after which it emerged that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will hold a congress on May 22. During that meeting, Davutoglu — Erdogan’s hand-picked successor — will stand down from his post as chairman of AKP and consequently, as the country's prime minister. He will remain in office until then. The move allows Erdogan to tighten his grip on power.

President Erdogan has acknowledged the announcement, saying "it is the prime minister’s own decision," Hurriyet reported.

A former professor of political science and international relations, Mr Davutoglu has overseen Turkey's foreign policy since 2003 as the country’s foreign minister and as Mr Erdogan's chief adviser. He is a long-term ally to Mr Erdogan. He had long been expected to take over as Prime Minister and was installed in the role in 2014 by Mr Erdogan himself.

The two men have clashed since Davutoglu became prime minister. Davutoglu has during the recent past opposed Erdogan’s policies , particularly over the latter’s intent to create an authoritarian presidency in Turkey, which is currently a parliamentary democracy.

Davutoglu, served as Turkey’s foreign minister in 2014 for Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was prime minister at the time. Mr. Erdogan later ascended to the presidency and Mr. Davutoglu became prime minister.

Davutoglu’s authority had been weakened recently after party leadership stripped the prime minister of some powers. Before a meeting between the two leaders late Wednesday, Erdogan alluded to their tensions.

Leader of Turkey’s main opposition has slammed the ouster of Davutoglu as a “palace coup” aimed at consolidating the president’s power.
“Davutoglu’s resignation should not be perceived as an internal party issue, all democracy supporters must resist this palace coup,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who heads the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said at a Thursday presser.

After being elected president in 2014, Erdogan handpicked Mr Davutoglu to succeed him as Prime Minister and leader of the AKP party. Mr Davutoglu was expected to play a backseat role as Erdogan pushed to make the largely ceremonial presidency into an all-powerful position.
Speaking on Thursday, Davutoglu said he never intended to be a caretaker prime minister, recalling a phrase from a speech by Mr Erdogan when he took over the party: "This is the era of a strong president and a strong prime minister." Erdogan viewed Davutoglu as an ineffective advocate for his push to transform the once-ceremonial presidency into Turkey’s most powerful position.

His exit will pave the way for Erdogan to hand-pick an even more loyalist and pliant head of government and push through controversial constitutional changes to strengthen the presidency.

While there have never been many instances of open differences between the two leaders, both men disagreed on major areas of policymaking, including the management of the economy and the possibility of the resumption of peace talks with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which Erdogan resolutely opposed. The two also disagreed over the persecution of academics and journalists, which Davutoglu opposed. Davutoglu often attempted to act autonomously on many political issues proving to be a more moderating force to the hawkish Erdogan. The premier championed a deal with the EU to stem the flow of refugees across the Aegean Sea - an accord in which the president has shown little interest. But if Mr Davutoglu thought that deal, popular among Turks and European leaders alike, would provide him with some political cover, he was wrong.
Ironically, the end of Mr Davutoglu’s premiership came just as his biggest achievement passed a key hurdle — the visa deal was approved on Wednesday by the EU executive arm, paving the way for an eventual vote by the European Parliament.

Reports about a growing rift between the two boiled over last week, when the AKP’s executive board stripped Davutoglu of his authority to appoint provincial party leaders while he was on a government visit to Qatar.

“The decision to take away my authority to appoint party leaders is something I would not have expected from fellow party members,” a visibly angry Davutoglu said on Thursday.

Pundits believe that Davutoglu isn’t the only obstacle to Erdogan’s push to transform Turkey’s parliamentary government into an all powerful presidency.

The ruling party lacks the parliamentary support needed to put constitutional changes to a referendum, which observers say raises the risk of yet another early election—following two rounds of voting last year.

The Turkish economy has also been negatively affected by recent political events with the lira falling 2.7 per cent since Wednesday, when reports emerged about Mr Davutoglu’s departure, and 4.5 per cent since Monday. Turkish stocks have gone down 2.9 per cent over the past two days and 7.8 per cent for the week. Investors are edgy about political uncertainty in a $720bn economy plagued by inflation, high overseas debt and growing insurgency in its major cities. Turkey has also played a negative role in the five-year long war in neighboring Syria with Damascus accusing Erdogan’s regime of supporting terrorists inside the country.

Turkey faces an uncertain future with Erdogan having been in power for over a decade and with the emerging scenario, he has no intention of relinquishing power rather he is consolidating his authority.

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