No future for AKP without Erdoğan, says pro-gov’t columnist

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should not fall into the “trap” of relinquishing his position at the head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said Abdulkadir Selvi, a columnist known for his links to the ruling party.

The AKP’s landslide defeat in the Istanbul mayoral rerun on June 23 has spurred reports saying Erdoğan is preparing to step down as the AKP chair.

But these reports have been stirred up by opponents of the AKP seeking to cut the president’s ties to the ruling party, Selvi said in his column for pro-government daily Hürriyet.

“No such project is underway in the AK Party”, Selvi said. “It seems like a trap to separate Erdoğan from the AK Party … What the lifespan of an AK Party without Erdoğan would be, I can’t be sure.”

Erdoğan, a founding member of the Islamist AKP, has gained unparalleled power in Turkey over 16 years of rule as the prime minister and then president.

He served as the chair of the AKP from 2001 until he became the first president elected in a popular vote in 2014. He stepped down from the chairmanship that year to conform to a law forbidding Turkey’s president from holding political affiliation.

In 2017, while Turkey was still governed under a state of emergency following the 2016 coup attempt, Erdoğan’s government repealed the law days after winning a controversial referendum to transition from a parliamentary republic to an executive presidential system.

The president reclaimed his position as AKP leader on May 21, 2017, after a three-year spell with former prime ministers Ahmet Davutoğlu and Binali Yıldırım in charge.

“When Erdoğan was elected to the presidency, he tried to control the AK Party from afar. But the Davutoğlu and Yıldırım models failed to take hold”, Selvi said.

The AKP chair has considerable control over important matters within the party, including its candidate lists in elections.