The ruling AK Party has chosen Binali Yıldırım to be its new chairman and prime minister. Coupled with the immunity debate in Parliament and the convulsions within the MHP, this week will long be remembered by those closely following Turkish politics
Turkey's domestic politics have three important topics on the agenda this week. The first is the arrival of the topic of Parliament revoking the immunity ofdeputies who are thought to have aided and abetted terrorism. The second is the change of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) chairman that will take place at the party's emergency convention on Sunday. The third is the increasing efforts the four new candidates for chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are expending in their struggle to replace current Chairman Devlet Bahceli.
Of these three items, the change of AK Party chairman is probably the one receiving the least attention. After the current chairman, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, announced on May 5 that he would be leaving his position, the question of what will happen with the AK Party occupied the highest order for a short period, but this interest did not last long.
This situation does not mean that the change of the AK Party chairman is unimportant in terms of politics. Because the new chairman will also be the next the prime minister as well as form the new Cabinet. Those opposed to the AK Party interpreted this change as not too important since they consider the AK Party chairman to be an unimportant political actor, and the new chairman will not be the same. According to them, the determinant political actor for the AK Party is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Undoubtedly, Erdoğan's importance for the AK Party is irrefutable. He is the founding leader of the party and he is the first president elected by popular vote as the AK Party candidate. His political vision maintains its central position for the AK Party. However, the main factor here is the institutionalized structure of the AK Party and the operation of its official boards. The AK Party's official boards of course employ political practices in tandem with Erdoğan's political vision and ask for a chairman compatible with Erdoğan's vision.
And so the AK Party Central Executive Board (MYK) announced the candidate for chairman yesterday. The new candidate for AK Party chairman is Binali Yıldırım. Yıldırım will be announced as chairman at Sunday's emergency convention. A long-time minister of transport, maritime and communication in AK Party governments, Yıldırım represents the "developmentalist" aspect of the party. Yıldırım is the figure behind the leaps made after 2000 in the area of transport as well as the megaprojects in Turkey. Yıldırım becoming chairman points to the AK Party paying more attention to economic growth in the new period.
It is precisely due to the institutionalized structure previously mentioned that the AK Party was able to also carry the matter of revoking deputies' immunities to Parliament's agenda. Despite going through a change in chairman, it was able to move as a whole on the matter of revoking immunity of members of Parliament who are thought to have aided and abetted terrorism. As will be remembered, the AK Party proposed that not only the immunities of Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputies, but also of all with a dossier be removed, and prepared a change in the bylaw in the Constitution. In the justification it prepared, the AK Party said: "With the precedence of revoking immunities in the scope of the struggle against terrorism and clearing the way for the judiciary, the provision of support to those demanding the removal of immunities on all counts and, especially concerning those cases where immunities are not removed, it has been thought appropriate to remove all of the immunities from immunity cases in order to obstruct the possibility of political exploitation."
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Republican People's Party (CHP) chairmen both made announcements expressing support for the AK Party's suggestion. However, in the vote on Tuesday on the revoking of immunities, the CHP supported the HDP and not the AK Party. The CHP was forced to hide this support from its own constituency in order to camouflage its own policy and claimed that the party administration diminished it. We must say that this claim is completely false.
The actual decision about immunities being revoked will be revealed after the vote in Parliament today. To me, it appears that there will be a call to apply to the people to vote and this will create a new political debate that will set the stage for politics in the upcoming period.
Undoubtedly, the MHP's status during this process will take on particular importance. There is a serious struggle going on to remove the current MHP chairman, Devlet Bahçeli. There are four opposition candidates facing Bahçeli who are asking that an emergency convention be gathered in order to change the party bylaw to replace the chairman. In the past week, the emergency convention the opposition has wanted was prevented by a court decision. After this, eyes turned to the decision that will come from the Court of Cassation.
This week is a week wherein important decision will be taken in politics, and it appears that this will be a week to which we look back often to remember what happened.