Turkey’s Erdoğan seeks to force the hand of new rebel parties - columnist

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has offered a stark warning to ruling party dissidents by expelling former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu from the party, columnist Abdulkadir Selvi said in the pro-government Hürriyet newspaper on Tuesday.

By doing so, the president may wish to force rebels from his party to launch planned new political movements before the time is right, the columnist said.

The decision to expel Davutoğlu and three other key Justice and Development Party (AKP) members was taken after a four-hour executive committee meeting on Monday.

Davutoğlu served as the AKP chairman and prime minister until he was sidelined after a period of tensions with Erdoğan in 2016. He has been a prominent intraparty dissident this year, and is expected to launch a new political party by the year’s end.

Erdoğan has grown increasingly uncomfortable with Davutoğlu’s criticism, and held discussions with lawyers on whether to seek his expulsion before Monday’s meeting, said Selvi, who is known for his insider sources in the ruling party.

The president’s decision was partly influenced by his warm reception last weekend in Davutoğlu’s home province of Konya, where the president criticised the intraparty rebels during a rally, said Selvi.

Davutoğlu’s expulsion could be seen as a move to encourage him to move forward prematurely with plans to launch the new party, according to the columnist.

It will also serve as a warning to another group of former AKP heavyweights who are planning to launch a second new party this year, led by the popular former deputy prime minister, Ali Babacan, and the former president, Abdullah Gül, he said.

Babacan resigned from the AKP in July, and Gül was required by the law at the time to leave the party when he became president in 2007.

Yet the expulsion of a former prime minister would also signal to them that Erdoğan is determined to fight the new political movements, Selvi said.

“This is just the beginning. We’ll see what Erdoğan is capable of in the coming days,” he said.

“Erdoğan once again has chosen the struggle over compromise. He’s made a move that could lead to the premature birth of the new political parties. Davutoğlu’s expulsion marks the beginning of a new period for the new parties,” he said.