Even if he wins the next election, Erdoğan won't make it through the next five years
Abdüllatif Şener, one of the original founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was an idealistic politician. Yet, he quickly became disillusioned with the party’s direction and leadership in 2007 and left, after serving five years as a member of parliament. He was a heavy critic of the AKP and its leadership and continues to comment on what he sees as an on-going power grab by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
We recently met with Şener to discuss his hopes and core ideals when AKP was formed and what made him to leave the party he co-founded.
Şener said he was very involved in the development of the ideas what eventually became the AKP. He chaired various committees and gave his input in the final party platform. After a great many meetings, discussions and conferences in several Turkish cities, the party founders developed what they believed was a democratic organisation.
Şener explained how the party's leader, Erdoğan, pushed for a democratic agenda and talked of partnership with the European Union (EU) in the beginning.
Reflecting on those early days, Şener says, “unfortunately in Turkey, anyone who promotes democracy, human rights, and rule of law, do it only to maintain their own interests.”
He says he realised that the more Erdoğan took control of the government institutions and oversight boards, the more he moved away from the party’s founding democratic ideals.
It was first the Constitutional Court, which had oversight over political parties, to be taken over, Şener said. Then, the military’s vast powers, as the hereditary guardian of secularism, was eliminated. Those who resist in the army brass to the was purged.
The civilian control over the military was actually for the good, Şener explained, but it also left the country without any other power to balance the power of the presidency.
Media organisations became more dependent. Anyone criticising Erdoğan was seen and portrayed as a suspect, journalists got jailed.
The AKP developed relationships with certain religious groups on mutual benefit, Şener said, the party rewarded those who allied themselves with Erdoğan.
Taking full control over the checks and balances system, eliminating the political opposition and amending the laws to the benefit of the party leadership; and finally the April 16, 2017 referendum which allowed for sweeping changes to the constitution and to the judiciary, Şener said, have led to a one-man regime.
Now the Turkish government is similar to the ones in the other 56 Middle East countries, Şener observed. Turkey has reached a point in which there is no independent judiciary, no democracy, no free press, and no respect for human rights.
From the beginning, Şener disagreed with Erdoğan on several topics, including privatisation, he says. As the former Chairman of the Privatisation Committee, he does not agree with the AKP’s narrative that privatisation is for the benefit of the public. Rather, he says, it was used by the ruling party politicians to gain advantages.
When Erdoğan returned to AKP’s leadership, after the April referendum lifted impartiality principle of the president, he stated “Those who turned their backs to the party never prosper!”
Şener suggests, “AKP is not strong or prosperous. Being the ruling party does not infer that.”
The former co-founder says AKP has lost sight of much of its earlier promising agenda.
“The AKP now means the leader, or president Erdoğan.”
Yet, Şener says, none of the ex-AKP politicians could present a strong challenge against Erdoğan. His power grab will continue, Şener says.
“Erdoğan has control over 90 percent of media organisations. The public, the man on the street does not see what you see. They believe that the country is doing well, the economy is strong, and that Turkish leadership is highly respected in the world.”
Şener explains that Turkey is actually at odds or even in conflict with many of the 128 countries which condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on a recent resolution vote in the United Nations General Assembly. “Yet, the media in Turkey writes about what a great leader Erdoğan is, as a world leader!”
Şener is proud of his first seven years with AKP and also happy that he has "nothing to do with the party" since 2007. The last seven years, he says, there has been an erosion of ideology and public trust.
As a former colleague, he predicts the fall of Erdoğan is near, perhaps in four or five years.
“Erdoğan doesn't have any friend who is close to him. Everyone around the President wants to be free of him. And they have reached their limits, they will leave Erdoğan in his weakest moment.”