Former prime minister Davutoğlu will be expelled from his party

Turkish former prime minister and chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ahmet Davutoğlu is to be expelled from the party, together with three colleagues. This is what the 12-member AKP Executive Board unanimously decided on Monday. The question has been referred to the party’s Board of Discipline, but the process is irreversible.

A statement Davutoğlu made last week may have accelerated action against him. He said: “If terror-related cases are investigated, many people (meaning President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his close entourage) will not be able to go out and face the public.”

After such a confrontation, it would be difficult for Davutoğlu to reverse the process and find an accommodation with the party. Reports say the former prime minister is preparing to set up a rival party to the AKP.

I was also expelled from the AKP when Davutoğlu was its chairman and probably at his behest. Unlike Davutoğlu, I was a founding member of the party. After the expulsion, my name was deleted from the list of the party’s founders, also probably on Davutoğlu’s instructions. History cannot simply be rewritten in this way, but Davutoğlu tried.

Despite this, I disapprove of what is being done to Davutoğlu. In a country governed by the rule of law, an individual has the right to establish a new party if he disagrees with the line followed by his party. This cannot be used as a pretext to expel him.

Two other members of the AKP, - Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister and economy minister, and Beşir Atalay, a former interior minister - are also establishing a new party, but they resigned the AKP before announcing their intention to do so. This does not mean that Davutoğlu had to do the same. It would be politically more expedient to resign before engaging in activities to establish a new party, but I do not think it is a legal obligation.

In 1946, when Turkey was moving to multi-party democracy, the then-prime minister, Celal Bayar, and member of parliament Adnan Menderes established the Democrat Party (DP) without resigning from the ruling Republican People’s Party (CHP). Ismet Inönü, the president of the republic and CHP leader, did not take any action to expel them from the party and the DP won the subsequent elections of 1950 and ruled the country for a decade.

Davutoğlu’s expulsion from the AKP was discussed at length by the party’s Executive Board. Some members thought he should be forced to resign rather than being expelled because they believed the expulsion would make him appear a victim and increase his popularity. Others thought allowing him to stay would damage the party so Davutoğlu and his three colleagues had to be expelled at once. The Executive Board unanimously agreed to expel the former prime minister and referred the issue to the Discipline Board.

The expulsion will, of course, speed up Davutoğlu’s efforts to establish a new party. This does not mean his party will become an important player in Turkey’s volatile political landscape. His chances of forming a sizeable opposition are slim, but his initiative and Babacan’s party will steal votes from the AKP. Babacan is more likely to attract voters, as he cannot be blamed for any past wrongdoing and enjoys prestige in Turkey’s business community as well as abroad. No matter how small the effect may be, these two parties will negatively affect the AKP’s political prospects.

Davutoğlu’s chances of success are handicapped by the fact that he can hardly complain about the difficult situation that Turkey finds itself in at present, because he was chairman of the ruling party and prime minister until as recently as 2016. While he may seek to blame Erdoğan for the wrong counter-terrorism policies, the electorate will wonder why he did not speak out at that time rather than threaten Erdoğan now, several years later.

It would not be a surprise if those who are expelling Davutoğlu today were themselves expelled from the party one day, when the tide changes.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.