His majesty’s government

This is a question that cannot be answered just by looking at the names that compose the inner cabinet. And in the meantime, the experiences we’ve had since Davutoglu became prime minister give us only the tiniest of hints regarding the sort of problems we’re due to face. One thing is for sure: We’ve entered into a whole new phase of inner power struggles in Ankara. From here onwards, a stable power balance between Erdogan and Davutoglu will be nearly impossible. There will be two basic axes for power in this new government: the personal competition between these two politicians and the burning problems that are always present in Turkey.

In Turkey, you won’t see the development of an autocracy such as you’d find in a standard Middle Eastern country. The country’s years of experience with state-bureaucracy will prevent this, as will people’s general political culture. If perchance Erdogan’s influence over the Davutoglu government were to continue, it would only be possible with a status quo in which Erdogan’s name was mentioned often, but in which his power was diminished massively.

In the meantime, a situation in which Erdogan continues to hold all the reins and constantly refuses the prime minister’s gestures would create an unsustainable period in which crises become the norm. A stable state bureaucracy works with a system in which the prime minister runs from the center, like a maestro of an orchestra.

In October of 2014, Erdogan intervened and put a stop to the Medium-term Economic Program (OVP) that Davutoglu and his Cabinet had prepared. It was a program that placed focus on the industrial sector; it was a program that required economic objective conditions in place. Erdogan blocked this program in the name of protecting the personal power network he had set up over the construction sector. Will the fact that names close to Erdogan make up the bulk of this new government mean that once again critical policies will be blocked? At this point, it appears that the personal weight of the winning prime minister in these last elections will change a lot; it may be enough to block the desires of the palace, no matter how pressing they are.

In addition to the arena of the economy, Turkey’s domestic and foreign security arenas are also problematic. And what’s more, the names that are headed for the country’s National Security Council (MGK) also look certain to bring the struggle between Erdogan and Davutoglu to that arena as well.

At this stage, there are many civilian members of the MGK who come to it from the government. The problem then becomes which “side” these civilians are on. And it is right at this juncture that another factor comes into play, one which might disrupt the civilian-military balance: Turkey’s urgent security needs and policies. Just as with economic policies, the objective needs in the security arena always stick closer to the choices of the prime minister, who shoulders authority and responsibility. Military security policies have always come down closer to the prime minister. The infamous Suleyman Sah operation developed without the knowledge of the president was served up by the military working in concert with the prime minister. When the president announced that the missile defense system from China had been cancelled, he made this comment that utterly confused the military: “We are going to develop not a defense system, but an attack system.”

Clashes of power and authority between Erdogan and Davutoglu are going to be inevitable in the coming period. But what we do not need is to see these clashes taking place within a framework of emotional polemic; we need to understand, in an open way, what the real perspective differences are between these men. Davutoglu has already shown he is not just some puppet to be controlled from Ankara. He might appear to be the perfect profile of a figure in a government of majesties, but he’s going to do what it takes to keep this profile at a symbolic level.


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