Turkish new government, what implications for Ankara’s foreign policy?

After an opinion poll conducted few days after the Presidential election, whose object was who would be the favourite Prime Minister for the AKP audit, the first in the list resulted Abdüllah Gül, the then outgoing Head of State, co-founder of the AKP and a person of a certain political esteem and consideration. The last resulted Ahmed Davutoğlu, the scholar turned Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2009. Few days later, the Assembly of the Justice and Development Party nominated Davutoğlu as both Deputy Prime minister and President of the Party, a charge Erdoğan was trying to keep for himself.

Turkish new government, what implications for Ankara’s foreign policy? - Geopolitica.info

Abdüllah Gül was also excluded from the Presidency of the Party, a charge he aspired to, due to the not-openly-declared tough evident opposition of Erdoğan who scheduled the General Party’ assembly one day before Gül ceased the Presidential Office, determining Gül ineligibility.

This move provoked many reactions, especially amongst the Party’s branch closest to the outgoing President.

Many rumors on the possibility of the foundation of a new Party by Gul’s side had arisen.

Gül’s wife, Hayrünissa, threatened an intifada against the party’s top management, just to show up some days later in company with her husband smiling at Erdoğan’s assignment ceremony on August 28th.

What was actually done by AKP’s highest spheres in order to extinguish such strong revenge intentions in such a short time is unknown, but it made clear there is only one mainstream accepted in AKP right now: Erdoğan’s one.

The real problem with the persona of Abdüllah Gül is his independence ad moderation. As a President, Gül opposed many acts of the Government, and criticised the Twitter ban or the overreaction acted by the security forces against Gezi Park protesters. After what happened with the other main internal opposition, literally wiped out during the last year, Gül has been probably induced not to enter a political adventure that could later identify him as a competitor to Erdoğan. For the same reason, he was not considered for a possible membership on the Cabinet, especially as a Prime Minister.

Davutoğlu is particularly supported by Erdoğan exactly for the opposite reason: the mild-mannered Profesör is all but a danger to the charismatic new President, who would hardly quit a certain influence on the new Cabinet.

Davutoğlu has been seen by many, in Turkish audit, under a light that does not seem to respect his rich and brilliant career: an idea of him being just an Erdoğan’s man acting in total accordance to the lines determined by the President is so spread amongst many that Erdoğan had to specify clearly, during the Party’s congress, that Davutoğlu would not be “an executor”.

On august 12th, a couple of days after the election, Bülent Arinç, the third co-founder of the Party who has been continuously holding the chair of Deputy Prime Minister since 2003 uttered what was secret to none: Turkey will shift into a Presidential Republic after the general Elections in 2015.

It is thus difficult to believe a personality as Erdoğan’s one is not already foreseeing the moment when, after the constitutional reform, he will collect in his hands both the Presidency and the Executive power.

Given that, what are the priorities in the new Cabinet agenda, and what will exactly be the role of Davutoğlu before the reform takes place?

As known, these last elections were all centred in the idea of a new Turkey. Davutoğlu’s role will be now to cope with any taboo still existent in Turkish policy about religion and public life.

With the new educational system, just implemented with the opening of the new school year the last month, after a reform that has been defined by many as a true attempt to destroy the secular education in Turkey through the Imam/Hatip system, Davutoğlu finds himself working in an environment where many of the limits existed in the past, due right to the secularism of the educational system, are already overcome.

The role of the Army, in particular after the trial that sentenced to life imprisonment the generals involved in 1980 Coup d’ Etat, is annihilated. The only true obstacle still existent to the promulgation of any law able to reform whatsoever aspect of public life in Turkey is represented by the Constitutional Court, in its majority still expression of secular presidencies and whose members have partially origin in Military courts.

Davutoğlu is not as much moderate in religion as he is in his general outlook. His ideological proximity to the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secret, and he may be considered the maître à penser of the Erdoğan-branded Turkey foreign policy (the reason why he was blamed on the failure of what was more or less properly defined “neo-ottomanism” policy towards states as Egypt).

After the shift in Turkish foreign policy under AKP era, the asset of the foreign relations of the State seems to be a very important issue for what they call “new Turkey”.

Historically, foreign policy has never been an important point in Turkish electoral communications, as Turkish foreign policy consisted until few years ago in keeping the Western-NATO positions. These elections witnessed a total change, whose content has a precise meaning and shows in nuce what will be the moves Turkey is willing to put into reality in the future.

The other paper Davutoğlu is called to play is therefore managing the extremely complex Middle-Eastern context in which Turkey is an important player.

With an Islamic State playing a double role with Turkey depending on it being at the Syrian or at the Iraqi border, Davutoğlu finds himself playing on a chessboard quite different from the one he was displaying or imaging while writing “Strategic depth”, his more famous work and the ideological base of his foreign political thinking.

Turkey is now, in fact, pressed by the United States in order to join as unconditionally as possible the new coalition drawn at the last NATO summit. The answer of Ankara, which came quite quickly, left few doubts on Turkey’s embarrassment: Turkey did not want to provoke any reaction by IS, which was still holding its diplomats. And, more, Ankara would anyway tend to leave a Sunni opposition alive in that area, with the goal of weakening the Shia (or Shia-related) governments still on charge in Damascus and Baghdad sooner or later, when the situation will be stabilized and Turkey will be able to operate a deeper influence on its neighbourhoods. Once more, the religious aspects play an important role in “new Turkey’s” assets and seems to be one of the main lines Turkey will follow in order to draw its future alliances.

The internal-esternal Kurdish issue, recently arose more dramatically to the general public eyes due to the tragedy of Kobane, is a further intricate issue to be solved by the Cabinet.

Here we go to the third, maybe ore important task Davutoğlu is called to accomplish: make of the charge of Prime Minister an insignificant one.

Also in this, the new Premier will surely not been left alone: the representative of the Turkish state at the last NATO summit in Wales was not him. For the first time representing the State was not the Prime Minister but the President of the Republic: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.