News & Politics

Palace Coup: Turkish President Erdoğan Ousts Prime Minister Davutoğlu

(AP Photo)

As we reported yesterday, there was a rumor in Turkey that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was going to resign. He and President Erdoğan were no longer seeing eye to eye because the president’s allies took Davutoğlu’s authority to appoint regional leaders of their party — the Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti in Turkish — from him.

Davutoğlu didn’t take kindly to that move, threatening to resign.

Today he announced that the rumors are correct. He will indeed resign as prime minister. The AKP’s leadership committee will, he said, appoint a new leader and, therefore, a new prime minister during a special convention later this month.

It’s a stunning move — a sitting president has to be neutral in Turkey according to the the nation’s Constitution and can’t interfere in a party’s inner politics — but it’s right up Erdoğan’s alley. The current president routinely ignores the Constitution and systematically fights to increase his own power.

The move has sent shockwaves through Turkish society. Although Davutoğlu isn’t especially charismatic, he is generally well-liked. What’s more, Davutoğlu is known as an Erdoğan loyalist; a man who would never make an important move against the president. “If even he can fall from grace,” Turks on the streets of Turkey’s third largest city of Izmir told me today, “everybody can.”

Davutoğlu’s deadly sin was that he opposed Erdoğan on one occasion. That’s all it took for him to lose his position.

Of course, Turkish voters and journalists have immediately begun talking about his possible successor. Transport Minister Binali Yildirim is one of the favorites to become Turkey’s new PM. He does, however, have a problem: he’s quite popular. That’s not the kind of number two Erdoğan wants.

And so Yildirim’s main rival may very well be Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who’s married to Erdoğan’s daughter Esra. That would be a masterful political move of the president, but it would also turn Turkey into his personal fiefdom. As those who have studied history know, a system like that seldom works well.

Being aware of that problem — both system-wise and with regards to public opinion — Erdoğan may decide to move in someone else, but someone who’s not as popular and powerful as Yildirim. If he does, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, and AKP deputy chairman Mehmet Ali Şahin are possible candidates.

Whoever he chooses, though, we can be sure of one thing: Turkey’s next prime minister will not tell Erdoğan “no.” And that means that Erdoğan will become even more powerful than he already is.