Turkish minister’s resignation exposes tensions in Erdoğan’s party - Reuters

The resignation of Turkey’s interior minister after a rushed coronavirus lockdown at the weekend has exposed tensions at the top of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Reuters said.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu submitted his resignation on Sunday after authorities on Friday gave just two hours’ notice for a 48-hour curfew in Turkey’s main cities , causing chaotic scenes as crowds rushed to stock up on supplies.

Soylu had offered to take the blame for the chaotic scenes, even though the move had been approved by Erdoğan. But Soylu’s resignation prompted a wave of support on social media for the minister, and Erdoğan swiftly announced that that he had rejected the resignation and Soylu would stay in place.

As a prominent member of the cabinet known for his hard-line stance on security and his popularity among party supporters, Soylu is seen by some AKP members as a potential rival to Erdoğan’s influential son-in-law, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, said Reuters

“It is no secret now that there has been a struggle and some issues between Albayrak and Soylu for some time,” one AKP official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Soylu’s ... resignation was an explosion from all this build-up.”

The official said Soylu had strengthened his position by winning a public endorsement from Erdoğan.

Since being appointed interior minister four years ago, Soylu, 50, has led a crackdown in which tens of thousands of people have been detained on suspicion of links to a network accused of being behind a failed 2016 military coup. Rights groups have described the purge as indiscriminate, disproportionate, and calculated to stifle dissent. 

But the AKP official told Reuters that Soylu’s crackdown had bolstered his standing within the party and among its support base. 

“No matter what anyone says, he has power and that power was really consolidated with the resignation issue,” the official told Reuters.

Losing Soylu would have dealt a blow to the AKP, a second party official told Reuters.

“Soylu is one of the important centres of power within the party ... The battle for power within the party has changed as of Sunday. But these have started becoming damaging images for the AK Party,” the official said.