A new change in the Constitution may lead President Erdoğan to join the AK Party and become its chairman once again
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is on the verge of selecting and then electing its new chairman to replace Ahmet Davutoğlu.
The party is canvassing the mayors of the party, the local executives in provinces and members of the party executive as well as its deputies to determine their preferences and then come up with a single candidate who will be nominated for chairman and thus prime minister.
According to AK Party insiders, Transportation and Communications Minister Binali Yıldırım is the front runner. His name is now being frequently mentioned in all AK Party quarters, which means it will not be a great surprise if on Sunday the party names Yıldırım as our new prime minister.
While all this is being cooked up in the AK Party, there is also a new move to change the Constitution and allow the president to preserve his party membership when he is elected. In the 1961 Constitution, the president was supposed to be an apolitical person thus even if he was a party member he was required to leave his party. In the 1982 Constitution, this clause was preserved. In 1982, while Parliament still elected the president, the powers of the head of state were dramatically increased because coup leader Kenan Evren wanted to keep control of the elected civilian government.
A new change in the Constitution to scrap this requirement means President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can then join the AK party and become its chairman. This also means the AK Party chairman who will be elected this weekend may be a temporary chairman to be replaced by Erdoğan.
The fact, of course, is that Erdoğan is accepted as the mentor and perennial leader of the party and thus while he enjoys the moral backing of AK Party deputies he still wants those organic bonds with the party and its deputies to be able to put into force his projects and plans without any middle man.
It is clear that the president feels he should try to consolidate his power base in Parliament. He sees that in the past examples reformist leader Turgut Özal could not get far with any of his projects because he had no direct links with his Motherland Party (ANAP) after he became president. This meant Özal tried to control the Motherland through remote control but this proved unsuccessful and impractical.
Özal was so frustrated that in the end he even felt he should quit as president and return to active political life by setting up a new party.
Erdoğan at the moment does not face any dissent or resistance from his AK Party deputies but how long this will last remains to be seen. In fact they see him as the mentor and father of the party and are more than prepared to display total loyalty to him as they know well he is the king maker.
Once Erdoğan manages to return to head the AK Party, his prime minister who lost his seat as party chairman may remain in office and act like a second in command. This is the role Yıldırım should envisage for himself in the political hierarchy in Turkey.