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Davutoglu as PM
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 03 - 09 - 2014

There was a moment when Ahmet Davutoglu seemed to offer eternal salvation, not just for his fellow citizens in the bridge between East and West, but also for all the countries in his backyard and beyond. He promised “zero problems”. This was the cherished term to which he dedicated many years of his life, a good portion of which were spent near the pyramids in Giza carrying out studies, the essence of which would become his book Strategic Depth.
At a time when Recip Tayyip Erdogan was at the peak of his popularity among Arabic speakers, publishing houses and periodicals raced to write about and celebrate an encyclopaedic work written by one of his outstanding disciples.
But to every rule there is an exception. This writer recalls, during a brief interview in the Egyptian embassy in Ankara, former Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit expressing reservations on the “zero problems” policy. Relations between Egypt and Turkey were amicable at the time, but this did not prevent Abul-Gheit from describing the concept as a futile work of the imagination. Reality is not the product of good intentions alone, he said.
Abul-Gheit's assessment proved correct. Not only did problems remain unsolved, they proliferated and accumulated, some cancerously.Cumhuriyet newspaper observes that, in marked contrast to Turkey's regional relations and standing in the past, Ankara today has disputes with every single one of its neighbours.
Yurt, a national daily newspaper based in Istanbul, mourned Turkey's ill fortune, saying that Ankara has forfeited its role as a Middle East peacemaker through its sectarian bias, lack of neutrality and espousal of the point of view of a single group, namely Hamas and other Islamist organisations.
The newspaper concluded that Ahmet Davutoglu has been a failure as foreign minister and wondered how he could possibly have been made prime minister. He was not even able to secure the release of 49 Turkish citizens, including diplomats and children, who were kidnapped by ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and are being held hostage in Mosul.
In spite of that dismal record, the pro-government media in Turkey hailed the rise of the geostrategic genius Davutoglu to the premiership. Under the headline, “Zero problems between President Erdogan and PM Davutoglu,” Sabah newspaper wrote that while serving as foreign minister, Davutoglu made a great change in foreign policy, “a fact recognised by all because he revived Turkey's prestige and elevated it to an internationally central and influential power.”
On what basis did this newspaper draw that conclusion when the evidence points in the opposite direction? Turkey has certainly not lived up to Europe's expectations. Because of the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP), which under Erdogan's command has come to look more and more like the fascist parties in pre-World War II Europe, it would be no exaggeration to say that the doors of accession to the EU — which for brief moment were open, revealing a glimmer of light — have slammed shut. Nor are they likely to open again as long as Erdogan continues to dominate the Turkish political scene, whether as a president with a largely honorary status, which will most likely remain the case, or as a president with greatly augmented powers, which is Erdogan's dream.
So why was Davutoglu given the premiership?
The answer hardly requires close study. The president could not care less whether Davutoglu succeeded or failed as a foreign minister. Erdogan was looking for a person who met the following criteria: someone who would be at his beck and call, who could be used to iron out difficulties, who did as told immediately and without question. In short, he needed someone to bolster his powers and help him consolidate his grip on the country and its people.
Davutoglu knows very well what will be expected of him. Perhaps his acceptance of the posts of JDP party chief and prime minister are his way of making up to his president for his failure as the architect of “zero problems”, which quickly turned into a thousand problems.
In order to smooth the way for Davutoglu's rise, an extraordinary meeting of the JDP was set for 27 August. The choice of that date was no accident. The purpose was to outmanoeuvre Abdullah Gül, whose term as president came to an official end the following day. At that point Gül could have made a bid for the premiership. The process would have been quite straightforward: a fellow JDP member gives up his parliamentary seat, Gül is nominated for that constituency, he wins and becomes an MP, after which he is poised to become prime minister. In fact, this is precisely the scenario that Erdogan arranged for himself in 2003.
Why did Erdogan feel the need to take such precautions with regard to his fellow JDP founder and long-term companion on the political road? Undoubtedly, he has never forgotten something Gül said back in 2002. This was when Erdogan was barred from serving in parliament, and hence as prime minister, due to his 1998 conviction on charges of inciting religious hatred. At the time, Gül said that he would not be a temporary prime minister.
The question now is: What next?
Ten days after Erdogan was elected president, former JDP parliamentarian Idris Bal issued a statement to the press that observers found very interesting. Bal resigned from the ruling party last year in protest against the government's oppressive policies against Islamist preacher Fathullah Gülen and his supporters. In his statement, Bal said that world powers no longer want to work with Erdogan because of his erroneous policies in Syria that led to the death of thousands of innocent civilians.
He said that Ankara now stands virtually alone in the world with regard to its position towards Egypt, due to Erdogan's determination to support ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Said Bal, “Because of all these reasons, they [world powers] want to remove him from the political scene sooner or later, and they will be able to do this even if it involves killing him.”
He went on to predict that Turkey will soon experience grave developments and that the pressures on Erdogan will become so intense by the end of the current year that he will be compelled to step down from office.
Already there are signs that the JDP could be torn by major differences in the coming days. The left-wing Aydnilik newspaper reported that supporters of former President Gül have begun procedures to found a new party, and that they received support from the chambers of trade and industry in Turkey's major urban centres. In addition, as I write this column, there is a flurry of communications at the governorate and municipal levels urging JDP members to resign from the party and join the new one.
Although it has yet to be officially named, the new party is expected to represent a broad political spectrum, from religious conservatives and nationalists to social democrats and liberals. It will also include a number of prominent political figures, including several former MPs.


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