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Ouster of Turkish PM Rekindles Dissent in Ruling AKP

  • Dorian Jones

Turkey's outgoing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu votes during discussions on the ruling AK Party's proposal regarding the amendment of the immunity on May 18, 2016 at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara.

Turkey's outgoing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu votes during discussions on the ruling AK Party's proposal regarding the amendment of the immunity on May 18, 2016 at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara.

Since the ousting of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, pro-president media outlets are appealing for unity and loyalty to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The calls come as his removal provokes uncharacteristic dissent within the party, being played out on social media.

Davutoglu's removal

Prime Minister Davutoglu's ouster by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took much of the ruling AKP by surprise. The move resulted in a rare public show of dissent within the AKP, with angry exchanges on social media.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks to the media at the headquarters of his ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, in Ankara, Turkey, May 5, 2016.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks to the media at the headquarters of his ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, in Ankara, Turkey, May 5, 2016.

Political consultant Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners said the dissent sends a worrying message to the president. "Davutoglu’s removal started a bitter fight in the party, much bigger than I anticipated," he said. "Between his followers or Erdogan’s detractors and Erdogan’s fans.I think Erdogan fears or his advisers fear that unless he assumes formal powers over the party, he may lose the party and that I think is the bigger issue."

The AKP has announced it intends to amend the constitution to lift a ban on the president being a member of a political party, allowing Erdogan to regain formal control over it.

Bitter fight within party

Pro-AKP media are calling for unity, while dissenting voices are being purged from their positions.Political scientist Cengiz Aktar said Erdogan will quickly crush any dissent.

People stage a demonstration in front of the Turkish Parliament in support of a bill to strip immunity of parliamentarians in Ankara, May 4, 2016.

People stage a demonstration in front of the Turkish Parliament in support of a bill to strip immunity of parliamentarians in Ankara, May 4, 2016.

"It was just wishful thinking by some people who started to think that Mr. Davutoglu can be an alternative to Erdogan. It was just a big mistake, and it's over." Aktar stated. "The remaining AKP followers will simply pay tribute to the unique sole source of power in the country."

Political columnist Kadri Gursel of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper and Al Monitor website said in his more than a decade in power Erdogan amassed powerful instruments of patronage to maintain power and the loyalty of his supporters.

"Erdogan has built up a very large apparatus — political interests, financial interests, social interests — many. He has turned the party into a huge company, running the state business, running the budget," Gursel said.

Replacing the PM

On Sunday, Erdogan is expected to further strengthen his grip on the AKP when it elects Davutoglu's successor. It is widely predicted the replacement will be one Erdogan’s closest allies.

The president has said his priority is to extend his presidential powers, a move that has to be ratified by a referendum.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, May 12, 2016. Erdogan says his country is gearing up to "clear" the Syrian side of its frontier in response to cross-border fire from the Islamic State group.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, May 12, 2016. Erdogan says his country is gearing up to "clear" the Syrian side of its frontier in response to cross-border fire from the Islamic State group.

Political consultant Yesilada said the outcome of that vote could be key to the future of the president. "I think we will have a referendum of sorts, this summer, the outcome of which is very uncertain.If Erdogan wins, everybody will be resigned to their fate. If Erdogan loses on the other hand, I am fairly certain there would be a bitter struggle in the party, or at least reduce his influence," said Yesilada.

Erdogan’s dominance of Turkish politics is built on more than a decade of successive electoral victories, but the president is likely to be aware that with any sign of weakness opponents, in and outside his party, would likely not hesitate to challenge his power.

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