Long-denied tensions between Turkey’s President And Prime Minister Are Beginning to Surface Publicly

Stacy Adams

erdLong-denied tensions between Turkey’s president Erdpğan And  and prime minister,Davutoğlu are beginning to surface publicly, leading to speculation from political observers that the country’s powerful leader may be considering replacing the premier with a figure more willing to take a backseat role.

The rift comes at a precarious time for Turkey, which is gripped by a surge in violent attacks perpetrated by Kurdish and Islamic State militants. The country has also seen renewed fighting with the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and growing spillover from the war in neighboring Syria, including a refugee and migrant crisis.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hand-picked Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to succeed him as premier and leader of his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, after he was elected president in 2014. Davutoğlu was largely expected to play second fiddle as Erdoğan pushed ahead with plans to make the largely ceremonial presidency into an all-powerful position.

The president, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, is pressing for a new constitution to change Turkey’s political system to a presidential one, which would push his prime minister deeper into the shadows.

Davutoğlu, an independent-minded former professor, adviser to Erdoğan and foreign minister, is struggling to be his own man.

Tensions between the two men were exposed this week, when the AKP’s executive committee — dominated by Erdoğan loyalists — seized Davutoğlu’s powers to appoint local and provincial leaders, further weakening his grip on the party. This development was billed as a “coup” against Davutoğlu by independent media.

Divisions between the Erdoğan and Davutoğlu camp spilled into the open over the conflict with Kurdish militants in the southeast. Erdoğan took issue with Davutoğlu after he spoke of the possibility of resuming peace talks with the PKK if it withdraws its armed fighters from Turkish territory. Erdoğan said in a public speech that it was out of the question for the peace process to restart, saying military operations would continue until the very last rebel is killed and the PKK threat is removed.

More fissures were apparent over Davutoğlu’s opposition to the pre-trial detention of journalists accused of spying and academics accused of voicing support for the PKK. Erdoğan spurned Davutoğlu and even suggested that anyone deemed to be supportive of extremists should be stripped of their citizenship.

The two men will meet face to face late Wednesday, but few expect them to iron out their differences. Calls placed to Davutoğlu’s spokesman for comment weren’t answered.

 

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