Wednesday, 04 December 2013

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

The common view of the commentators in the Turkish press is that the ongoing power struggle between Prime Minister Erdoğan and the Hizmet movement of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen has reached a new stage and that it will be difficult to resurrect the alliance between the AKP and the “cemaat”. While those directly implicated in the fight, pro-AKP and pro-cemaat pundits, exchange attacks and insults, more detached observers note that the struggle is not about ideology or principles, with both parties sharing a similar, Muslim conservative agenda, but simply about who is going to control the state. They predict that the power struggle is going to continue and even become fiercer as Turkey enters into a crucial election cycle during the coming two years, opening for possible, new alliances that no one can quite imagine today.


Abdülkadir Selvi in Yeni Şafak wonders why the representatives of the cemaat insist on tearing down the bridges between the movement and the AK Party, despite the fact that Prime Minister Erdoğan employs a positive language toward the sincere base of the movement. Prime Minister Erdoğan is the one person with whom the cemaat most easily can reach an agreement. In spite of this, the choice is made to seek confrontation instead of accommodation with Erdoğan. What is the meaning of such an aggressive campaign? The student prep classes are only one of the legs of a larger political project. The target is the presidential elections and the project is an AK Party without Erdoğan. “Erdoğan the sell-out”, “Pharaoh”, “You broke our hearts, at least don’t shred it to pieces, master” campaign has a specific strategic aim: to turn the base of the cemaat against the prime minister. That is why an attempt is being made to tear down the bridges of the heart. After first having created an “anti-Erdoğan” sentiment, the plan is to mobilize this sentiment behind a “common candidate” against Erdoğan.



Oral Çalışlar in Radikal writes that the conflict between Erdoğan and the Hizmet Movement of Fethullah Gülen has arisen over an overriding question, how the spoils of power are going to be divided among the ruling conservatives. Unlike many others, I don’t believe that Erdoğan is going to encounter any problems being elected president. Instead, the crucial question is who is going to take over the ruling party after Erdoğan; and how is the internal power structure of the party going to be designed. There are possibly going to be efforts made to reach an understanding; indeed, the parties may even agree on certain points. However, the crisis that is triggered by the three approaching elections (municipal elections in March 2014, presidential elections in August 2014 and general elections in 2015) is inevitably going to deepen. The tug of war in the municipal elections may be used as an opportunity. Thereafter, the presidential election is going to present another opportunity for “using assets and sharing assets.” We may witness the birth of new “alliances” and “coalitions” that we cannot imagine today. We are heading into a period of turmoil about which perhaps no one can make any concrete predictions. The tension that I predict is going to continue to escalate is set to define Turkey’s economic, sociological, psychological, cultural parameters in every sense.



Ruşen Çakır in Vatan reminds that the moment when the alliance between the Gülen cemaat and the government broke apart was February 7, 2012, when the MIT crisis (when a prosecutor tried to bring in the head of MIT, the National Intelligence Agency and three of his predecessors to interrogation) erupted. I see this as the biggest strategic mistake ever of Fethullah Gülen. At the time, I predicted that Gülen would do whatever it would take to repair the damage that had been caused by this strategic blunder. I thought so because the cemaat-AKP alliance against the military tutelage had been extremely successful, and it was in the interests of both parties that it endured; remaining in a state of confrontation with the government could impair the positions of the cadres of the cemaat within the state. Most seriously, there was a risk of losing those who like the cemaat (Gülen) and the AKP (Erdoğan) in equal measure. Why didn’t Gülen try to mend fences? The first answer could be that he in fact lacked the will to do it; or he may have thought that he wouldn’t be able to mend fences even if he were to try. Secondly, we may conclude that the affection of the alliance years between the parties was not so very sincere in the first place. Indeed, the anger and venom that the two parties have displayed against each other during the last days cannot have resulted solely from the discussion about the student prep classes.



Oya Baydar on the t24 news site argues that the reason why the AKP and the cemaat are at each others’ throats is that they are waging a battle about the control the state. Even if their methods and structures differ, the AKP and the cemaat share the same religious-ideological sources, have the same, Muslim-conservative worldview and both endeavor to raise pious, nationalist generations. When Erdoğan and the cadres of the AKP discovered that the cemaat had infiltrated the state more than they had assumed, that they had captured crucial posts, and when they became aware that the cemaat indeed did not hesitate to occasionally block their political agenda, the relation turned sour. Realizing that he had not paid sufficient attention to the cemaat’s entrenchment in vital state institutions as the judiciary, the police and even the military, Erdoğan has set about to block the cemaat’s ability to raise cadres and to become further entrenched in the state, in order to secure his own, full control the state. In short, what we are witnessing is a straightforward struggle to become the sole owner of the state. At least, the battle has had one advantage so far: as a result of it, the both versions of the Islamically coded Turkist conservatism has been forced to retreat a step. Now it’s time to rethink and organize the struggle for democracy and the rule of law.



Kadri Gürsel in Milliyet comments on the effects that the interim deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program is going to have for Turkey. An Iran that would have become a nuclear power, even reached the nuclear threshold, would have caused Turkey’s geopolitical position to dramatically deteriorate. Those outcomes would both have introduced a historically unique asymmetrybetween the two countries, to the detriment of Turkey. Turkey would then have been left with two options, both of which would have had lousy consequences. Turkey would either have been forced to seek the protection of NATO’s shield, a dependency which in turn would have reduced its standing as a major regional actor in its own right; or it would have chosen an even worse alternative, seeking to balance Iran by acquiring its own nuclear capability, which would have wrecked all of its alliance relations and causes it to be perceived as a threat in the region. Thus, the nuclear deal protects Turkey from both of these outcomes; and it will also ensure an easing in the bilateral relations with Iran.

Read 6531 times

Visit also





Joint Center Publications

Op-ed Halil Karaveli "The Rise and Rise of the Turkish Right", The New York Times, April 8, 2019

Analysis Halil Karaveli "The Myth of Erdogan's Power"Foreign Policy, August 29, 2018

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, A Road to Understanding in Syria? The U.S. and TurkeyThe American Interest, June 2018

Op-ed Halil Karaveli "Erdogan Wins Reelection"Foreign Affairs, June 25, 2018

Article Halil Karaveli "Will the Kurdish Question Secure Erdogan's Re-election?", Turkey Analyst, June 18, 2018

Research Article Svante E. Cornell "Erbakan, Kisakürek, and the Mainstreaming of Extremism in Turkey", Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, June 2018

Analysis Svante E. Cornell "The U.S. and Turkey: Past the Point of No Return?"The American Interest, February 1, 2018

Op-ed Svante E. Cornell "Erdogan's Turkey: the Role of a Little Known Islamic Poet", Breaking Defense, January 2, 2018

Research Article Halil Karaveli "Turkey's Authoritarian Legacy"Cairo Review of Global Affairs, January 2, 2018


The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.


Sign up for upcoming events, latest news and articles from the CACI Analyst