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Turkey's AK Party Focus Driven by Erdogan Image

  • Dorian Jones

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (l) at the Kremlin, Sept. 23, 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (l) at the Kremlin, Sept. 23, 2015.

Analysts say Turkey's AK Party congress last week resulted in the tightening of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on the party. Now critics are saying party leadership has been replaced by Erdogan's cult of personality consisting of only those very close to the president.

Following the removal of all President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rivals from the Islamist-rooted AKP Party’s powerful management committee, founding member and former deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc declared that the party was no longer a party of "us" but of "I."

Istar Gozaydin, an expert on Islamist movements at Izmir’s Gediz University, says the September congress has completed a process of transforming the party.

"First the liberals were left out, and then the other competing Islamic groups were forced out and now there is just a core that are very close to Tayyip Erdogan," said Gozaydin.

Gozaydin says much of AKP’s electoral success was pinned on a broad coalition of interests. That dominance, observers say, means there are few alternatives for the disaffected AKP voters.

To further strengthen its grip ahead of the November 1 election, local media reports that the party is engaged in making electoral pacts with fringe Islamist parties.

But political columnist Semih Idiz of Turkey’s Cumhurriyet newspaper and Al Monitor website, says if the AKP fails to win a majority in the November election, divisions within the party will become more apparent.

"The future of the party is not stable and will possibly have some kind of crisis after the elections. And there is speculation about whether the party will split and new a party will come out of it. But all of this hinges what the party achieves in November 1," said Idiz.

Most opinion polls are predicting a repeat of the June election result in which the AKP failed secure a majority. Observers say the November election is set to be Erdogan’s greatest political challenge.

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