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Thursday, May 5

Is Turkey's political freefall masking a struggle for the country's soul?

During the 18th century, the French began to colonize [Senegal]. Senegalese Muslims took a variety of responses to French colonization. Especially in the countryside the Senegalese joined Sufi brotherhoods to unite against colonization. The popularity of the Tijaniyyah brotherhood marks this shift; Islam became “a rallying point for African resistance to the French." [From Islam in Senegal, Wikipedia]
On the surface the rift between Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu looks like a power struggle between two factions in the same political party. The Middle East Eye reported March 4: Turkey in political freefall after news PM Davutoglu set to resign and Sputnik reported two days earlier Political Infighting: Erdogan Party Strips Power From Davutoglu:
In the latest sign of Turkey’s slide toward dictatorship, the ruling AK Party has taken steps to remove power from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and to consolidate authority behind embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. ...
Below the surface --

From this May 3 Financial Times report, Davutoglu’s future hangs on success of EU-Turkey visa deal I wonder whether Erdogan now sees Davutoglu as leaning too far toward the European Union. If that's indeed the case it would indicate a reversal in Davutoglu's thinking:
According to Behlül Özkan, who was lectured by Ahmet Davutoğlu in 1998 at Marmara University and currently serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the same university, Davutoğlu has pan-Islamic notions rather than neo-Ottoman.  ... The notion of pan-Islamism is critical of Turkey's attempts to integrate with western nations, and advocates a union within the Middle East in order to increase regional strength and unity between peoples. ...
Davutoğlu can be said to have not defensive but expansionist pan-Islamic notions, as shown by his statements about the Syrian Civil War. Özkan also stated that Davutoğlu does not believe in the European Union and instead wants an Islamic Union. ... [Ahmet Davutoglu, Wikipedia] 
Of course there's nothing like one's government landing in dire economic straits to shake up a prime minister's academic notions. From the Financial Times report:
When Turkish premier Ahmet Davutoglu made an offer in March to take back all migrants crossing to Greece, it stunned Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and changed the course of Europe’s migration crisis.
It was a surprising political manoeuvre, even more so because Mr Davutoglu had not consulted the most powerful man in Turkey — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Hurriedly conjured-up in a plane on the tarmac of Brussels airport, Mr Davutoglu’s gambit worked, clearing the way for a historic pact that may within weeks win Turks visa-free travel to Europe, a right Ankara has sought for decades.
Yet in spite of the seeming breakthrough, Mr Erdogan has conspicuously distanced himself from the deal, leaving the more pro-EU Mr Davutoglu to shoulder the blame if it falls apart. ...
"More pro-EU?" Maybe the Wikipedia article on Davutoglu needs to be updated?

Something else might need updating as well, which is the view of why Erdogan wants to bring in a Turkish caliphate. From a Sputnik report dated April 26: Turkish Parliament Speaker Urges to Abandon Secular Constitution:
... “As a Muslim country, why should we be in a situation where we are retreating from religion? We are a Muslim country. So we must have a religious constitution,” [Turkish Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman] said while addressing an Islamic academics' and writers' conference in Istanbul on Monday, as quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper.
Kahraman belongs to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey's AKP-dominated government has been repeatedly criticized by the country's secular NGOs and political parties, such as the Turkish Communist Party, for the process of Islamization that undermines the secular nature of Turkish statehood. ... 
Would this Islamization have anything to do with a fear of EU-ization, for want of a better term?

And what of the Butterfly Dress? Did you read the entire article I linked to about the dress, which is the brainchild of two Turkish fashion-designing sisters? Remember the photo of them conferring in their design studio in Istanbul?




Not exactly Islamist types, are they? But are they Turkish types? 
The sisters say they were the first Turkish ready-to-wear designers to present collections at fashion weeks in Paris. They also presented collections in Milan and will show in Dubai later this year. Their cultural background strongly influences their architecturally distinctive designs.
“Anatolian culture is like parchment paper,” said Ezra, referring to her homeland, the heartland of modern Turkey, nestled between Europe and the Middle East.
“Many different civilizations may have passed but their immense treasures always remain in our culture — in everything from our traditions, arts and crafts to our everyday life.”
She calls it Anatolian culture, not Turkish.

I don't like ending on an inconclusive note but Turkey itself is sounding quite inconclusive to me. Ah, well, to return to Davutoglu's pressing problem, which is that of political survival.  Will the European Parliament and specifically Germany's government allow Erdogan to give him the boot? We'll soon find out.

From the May 4 Middle East Eye report i linked to above:
... News that Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, after meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is to announce the holding of a party congress on Thursday, effectively signifying his resignation, has sent shockwaves through the country.
The value of the Turkish Lira dropped from 2.79 to the dollar earlier in the day to 2.94.
Davutoglu is expected to make the announcement at 1100am local time (0900 GMT).
After 14 years in power, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may be coming apart at the seams. But far more threatening than the unravelling of a political party are fears about the direction in which the country is headed.
Both domestic and international critics have for years pointed to the growing authoritarianism and strong-man tactics employed by Erdogan. The fact that he can so easily dismiss the prime minister, a man he rapidly promoted through the ranks, is sending shivers down the spines of many.
“This is a palace coup,” said Yusuf Kanli, a veteran commentator on Turkish politics. “The president wanted the prime minister to step down and that’s it. Now we will have a party convention in May or early June,” Kanli told Middle East Eye.
Rumours of tensions within the party have been rife for almost a year, but not even the AKP’s worst enemies had imagined a split could occur on such a scale. Unconfirmed reports suggest the AKP will convene a party congress within 60 days and that Davutoglu will not stand as a candidate.
“Events today show that the AKP will move to consolidate Erdogan’s aspirations of becoming a super president. Whether they will succeed remains to be seen. These are very fine political calculations,” Kanli said.
The party congress elects the party chairman, who automatically becomes their choice for prime minister. 
The office of the presidency has not commented on the Ergogan-Davutoglu meeting this evening, other than announcing it was a regular scheduled event.
The prime minister usually has a weekly meeting with the president on Thursdays, but this one was brought forward by a day as speculation about the tensions mounted.
Abdulkadir Selvi, a Turkish journalist known for his close links to the Davutoglu camp, also said that the prime minister does not intend to stand in the forthcoming congress.
Speaking to local broadcaster CNN Turk, Selvi said: “We will only know for certain whether the prime minister won’t stand to be party chairman again tomorrow. But it is clear that a decision was reached that the differences of opinion [between the prime minister and president] cannot be resolved without announcing a party congress.”
Erdogan has made statements in recent times that appeared to directly target Davutoglu.
He said the importance of a deal granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel in the EU Shengen zone had been exaggerated. Davutoglu championed the deal as a major victory for his party and team.
Another signal that Davutoglu was out of favour was when he was stripped of his power to appoint provincial party leaders on 29 April. That authority was handed back to the party’s central decision-making board.
Earlier today, Erdogan made a cryptic statement saying that “people should not forget how they attained their position”. It was widely interpreted as a dig at Davutoglu, who rose rapidly through the ranks of the AKP from adviser to foreign minister to prime minister.
Observers say Davutoglu did not turn out to be the simple “yes man” that Erdogan expected him to be amid planned constitutional changes that would increase the power of Erdogan's presidency.
As Turkey enters another period of high political tensions, Kanli said it may lead to a splinter party with centre-right tendencies that could challenge the AKP.
“All this happens because of the absence of a credible opposition. The left has proved useless,” Kanli said. “But we could have a real centre-right alternative to the AKP if Davutoglu were also to join the already disgruntled camp of the likes of former President Abdullah Gul and former Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.”
Davutoglu had also come under fire from what many believe are pro-Erdogan journalists, one of whom, Nasuhi Gungor, even said on live TV that the time had come to move on without Davutoglu. ...
Maybe before a "credible opposition" can emerge Turkey has to resolve what looks to me like an identity crisis.

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