August 29, 2014

A new era with Davutoğlu?

Begüm Burak

Ahmet Davutoğlu, a distinguished academic and the former foreign minister, has been elected as the new head of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and has become the 26th Prime Minister of Turkey.

According to many journalists and political commentators, Davutoğlu will not be able to follow an independent and self-confident policy as prime minister; he will act within the boundaries that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has determined for him.

After the Dec. 17 corruption probe, the rhetoric of “parallel state” has been ambitiously used by the pioneering figures of the government. Since then, Davutoğlu has echoed what Erdoğan has said. Davutoğlu has ambitiously engaged in undermining Hizmet-affiliated Turkish schools abroad and aims shut them down.

Indeed, the Turkish schools have been seen as a tool of “soft power” for Turkey's relations with foreign countries. In line with that, Gülen-inspired civil Islam has been treated as a remedy for the flaws that came as a result of the pathological state-religion relationship that was dominant in Turkey until the early 2000s. However, for almost a year, this understanding has left its place in exchange for hatred toward the Hizmet movement. The vilification of Hizmet has been the number one issue on every pro-government media outlet. Hizmet has been stigmatized as a “parallel state structure.”

Turkey under Davutoğlu as prime minister will not change in terms of the state's fight against the imagined “parallel state.” This is obvious in Erdoğan's remarks as well. He has said that the new prime minister will do whatever it takes to fight the parallel state. The determination of “new Turkey” to kill the monster of the parallel state, by even using non-democratic and lawless measures, will lead to an inevitable instability and will put the future of the AK Party under Davutoğlu's leadership at risk. Unsurprisingly, the AK Party without Erdoğan is open to splits and ideological clashes. The most threatening factor is the probable clash of interests that will be evident in the relatively young figures of the party. In brief, the leadership of Davutoğlu will be a stimulating factor for further polarization among the AK Party cadres. The AK Party will face new tensions, cliques and challenges within.

Some people argue that Davutoğlu has pan-Islamist tendencies. According to such an argument, Davutoğlu employs Islamism not only on the national scale, but also on the regional and global scale. Dr. Behlül Özkan recently wrote an article on that issue titled “Turkey's Imperial Fantasy” for the New York Times. Nowadays, the vital issue to be discussed is neither the ideology of Davutoğlu nor the issue of pan-Islamism. The vital issue to be discussed is whether Davutoğlu will be a fair-minded prime minister or not.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 August 2014, Friday