The knives are out

There are various reasons behind a recent bitter rift between President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), for which ErdoIan served as prime minister for around 12 years before becoming president in August of last year One of the reasons for last week’s first-ever public war of words between ErdoIan and the AKP government on the already fragile Kurdish peace process can be linked to the military’s covert influence exert

There are various reasons behind a recent bitter rift between President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), for which ErdoIan served as prime minister for around 12 years before becoming president in August of last year

One of the reasons for last weekand#39s first-ever public war of words between ErdoIan and the AKP government on the already fragile Kurdish peace process can be linked to the militaryand#39s covert influence exerted on the president, which has preventing him from lending support to aance this process. This is despite the fact that ErdoIan himself — in his former capacity as prime minister — initiated a historic process in late 2012 to broker peace with the Kurds with the aim of ending the approximately 30-year-long terrorism problem

But now he appears to be a stumbling block to government efforts to aance the peace process.

In the meantime, a cease-fire announced in 2013 by Abdullah andOumlcalan — the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK) — still holds despite ongoing mistrust between the two sides.

The June parliamentary elections have also triggered the first-ever public row between ErdoIan and the government over peace efforts since he took up his position as president.

ErdoIan is pursuing a strategy of shoring up nationalist support for the AKP for the June national elections so that he can ensure the parliamentary majority necessary to amend the Constitution and introduce an executive presidency. Through the constitutional amendments ErdoIan wants to become the sole decision maker in all policy issues and hence consolidate his power amid concerns that he has been displaying authoritarian instincts.

More importantly, the first open confrontation between the AKP and ErdoIan since his election as president in August has also demonstrated that the honeymoon between the two has neared its end.

ErdoIan, as part of his ongoing policy of shaping his former partyand#39s decisions, has expressed severe criticism of the governmentand#39s latest steps to aance the peace process.

This came in the midst of March 21 Kurdish Nevruz New Year celebrations during which a message from andOumlcalan was read to thousands of Kurds who gathered in the Kurdish-dominated DiyarbakIr province in the southeastern part of Turkey.

andOumlcalan said in his message that the PKKand#39s three-decade fight against the Turkish state had become unsustainable but stopped short of declaring an immediate end to its armed struggle.

He urged his militant group to hold a congress in the spring on laying down its weapons. He made the issue of disarmament contingent upon government action regarding negotiations on a 10-point democratization plan disclosed during a joint press conference held in late February between government ministers and the pro-Kurdish Peopleand#39s Democratic Party (HDP) at the historic Dolmabahandccedile Palace in Istanbul.

The plan includes the definition and content of democratic policies, the legal guarantee of free citizenship, a procedure to deal with social and economic issues and a new constitution.

Yet ErdoIan stepped up his criticism of the government on his way back from Ukraine on March 20, describing the Dolmabahandccedile gathering and the statements made to this end as attempts to legitimize jailed PKK leader andOumlcalan.

ErdoIan also publicly criticized the creation of a monitoring group as well as a secretarial office as part of efforts to aance the process, claiming they were of no use.

Banduumllent ArInandccedil, deputy prime minister and government spokesperson, however, reacted sharply to ErdoIanand#39s remarks, which was unusually direct criticism of his former prime minister ArInandccedil accused ErdoIan of being emotional and of meddling in government business.

andquotIt is the government that is running the country,andquot he told reporters. andquotThe president speaking like this, to the point of criticizing our government, may wear out the government,andquot ArInandccedil said.

ArInandccedil also reaffirmed the governmentand#39s determination to go ahead with plans to establish a monitoring committee to observe the peace process with the Kurds, adding that ErdoIanand#39s remarks that appear to be critical of government actions only serve to undermine the government.

At long last Prime Minister Ahmet DavutoIluand#39s government has realized that there is a government in Turkey and that ErdoIan should stop meddling it its affairs.

Yet ErdoIanand#39s big U-turn in the peace process can also be attributed to the militaryand#39s influence over him

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) used to be the main actor in the decades-old fight against the PKK, both militarily and politically. ErdoIanand#39s initiation of the peace process in 2012 also became possible with the explicit endorsement of his plan by commanders at the time.

But the military has limits. And ErdoIanand#39s disapproval of government steps that will pave the way for the start of negotiations with the PKK has also echoed the militaryand#39s view that PKK cannot be treated as an interlocutor and that the organization should lay down its arms unilaterally, with no political concessions given to them

At the end of the day, direct confrontation between ErdoIan and the AKP over the peace process may influence voters in a way that may end the formerand#39s appetite for authoritarianism

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman