ISTANBUL - Turkey's AK Party will hold its annual party congress Saturday, amid mounting speculation of growing divisions within the party.
Despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having to relinquish his leadership of the AK Party after taking office last year, analysts say, through his supporters, he has given up little power.
But, with his continued push to create a super-presidency and his increasingly hard line in pursuing a war against the Kurdish rebels, divisions with the AK are likely to surface, said political columnist Semih Idiz of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper and AL Monitor.
“Anything is possible at the moment, and we might even see some cracks emerging in the party congress. Factions may emerge that previously did not want to reveal themselves for the sake of party unity,” said Idiz. “There is a camp that thinks more pragmatically about all these developments, Turkey’s position in the world and what is happening to Turkey today.”
Observers say President Erdogan’s presidential predecessor Abdullah Gul, another founding member of the AK party, is a possible focal point of dissent.
According to local media reports the AK Party’s current leader Ahmet Davutoglu could also try at the weekend meeting to replace Erdogan supporters in the running of the party. And signs are already emerging.
Earlier Friday, AK party spokesman Besir Atalay said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will stand unopposed for the re-election to the leadership of the ruling AK when the party holds its congress on Saturday.
Davutoglu has faced strong criticism among Erdogan supporters for his party losing its majority in the June election.
With the country facing another election in November, Erdogan may be tempted to move against Davutoglu, said Sinan Ulgen of the Carnegie Institute in Brussels.
“He may believe that Davutoglu has not been successful as chair of party. Having a new person at the helm of the party might give a new push of popularity in the party. But there is also an argument that any struggle within AK party before the elections might weaken the party,” stated Ulgen.
Observers say whatever happens on Saturday, delegates will likely be aware of the sluggish economy, the deepening conflict with Kurdish rebels and growing criticism of authoritarianism by Erdogan. This is likely to make the November snap election the hardest the AK party has faced.