Turkey PM to quit as Erdogan consolidates power


The Wall Street Journal reports: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was expected to announce Thursday that he is stepping down as premier, amid a power struggle with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that complicates Ankara’s efforts to forge deeper ties with Europe and the U.S.

The decision, which followed a nearly two-hour meeting between the two leaders, signaled the likely dissolution of Turkey’s most important political partnership. It also created new concerns for European leaders about Turkey’s commitment to implementing its side of a migration deal that would secure visa-free travel to the European Union for Turkish citizens.

Earlier Wednesday, the bloc’s executive arm endorsed the deal—a measure Mr. Davotoglu sought in exchange for stemming Europe’s refugee crisis.

In the West, the Turkish premier is widely seen as a reformer who was interested in deepening long-term cooperation with Europe, and one who had emerged as a principal interlocutor between Washington and Ankara in recent years. Mr. Erdogan, by contrast, is viewed with skepticism, if not open derision, by European leaders critical of the president’s crackdowns on domestic dissent.

Mr. Davutoglu’s decision to step aside could worsen relations between Ankara and Washington, which is relying on Turkey in its deepening fight against Islamic State.

Tensions between Messrs. Erdogan and Davutoglu have been building for weeks as each man sought to demonstrate his influence over negotiations with Western leaders working to solidify a tenuous deal that has curbed the flow of migrants and refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe, Western officials and political allies of the two men said.

On Wednesday night, the two men met at Mr. Erdogan’s palace in the Turkish capital for a closely watched meeting to try to hammer out their differences.

After the meeting, Turkish officials said Mr. Davutoglu would stand down as leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party in a special convention to be held in the next few weeks, an unprecedented move in more than half a century of parliamentary democracy in the country. That will in effect end his tenure as prime minister and pave the way for Mr. Erdogan to choose a new ally to serve in the post.

The president’s office said it wouldn’t comment on Mr. Erdogan’s regular weekly meeting with Mr. Davutoglu, and referred questions regarding the ruling party to the prime minister’s office. A spokesman for the prime minister didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Critics of Mr. Erdogan cast the meeting as a palace coup by a man intent on consolidating power.

“Erdogan needs a 100% ‘yes man,’ ” said Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former opposition lawmaker in Turkey. “He doesn’t want any dissent.” [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: Davutoglu had offered only lukewarm support for Erdogan’s vision of a stronger presidency and the decision to remove him follows weeks of tensions. His successor is likely to be more willing to back Erdogan’s aim of changing the constitution to create a presidential system, a move that opponents say will bring growing authoritarianism.

“Palace Coup!” said the headline in the secularist opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper.

“From now on, Turkey’s sole agenda is the presidential system and an early election,” said Mehmet Ali Kulat, head of the pollster Mak Danismanlik, which is seen as close to Erdogan. He forecast an election in October or November.

Erdogan wants Turkey to be ruled by the head of state, a system he sees as a guarantee against the fractious coalition politics that hampered the government in the 1990s. His opponents say this is merely a vehicle for his own ambition.

“These are critical developments in my mind in Turkey – likely setting the long-term direction of the country, both in terms of democracy, but (also) economic and social policy and geopolitical orientation,” said Timothy Ash, strategist at Nomura and a veteran Turkey watcher. [Continue reading…]

Mustafa Akyol writes: On the night of May 1, in just a few hours, a brand-new political blog became a national hit in Turkey. Titled Pelican Brief — apparently a pun on the 1993 Hollywood thriller — the site presented a single entry, which was a long diatribe against Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Its significance lay in not just whom it attacked, but also on whose behalf it appeared: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s all-powerful president.

The writer merely identified himself as “one of those who would sacrifice his soul for the CHIEF.” The latter word, which was used in the text 73 times and always in caps, was a reference to Erdogan. The writer was intentionally anonymous, but soon people who know Ankara well began to whisper that it was a journalist very close to Erdogan and who could have written this only with a green light from the president’s office.

The blog post began by reiterating the standard Erdoganist narrative: that there are so many conspiracies against Turkey, and the only thing that protects the nation is the wisdom and power of its president. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is an intimidating country in which every superpower is playing chess,” the author argued, only to warn, “Even if you topple one traitor here, [these superpowers] will immediately bring another one. … They will even turn our own people against us. So open your eyes and look around. And see what I see.” [Continue reading…]

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