The resignation crisis in the AKP involving Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu is considered to be the first open manifestation of the trouble emerging from the factionalism that has arisen in the party especially following Tayyip Erdoğan’s election as president. Within the party, there are two groupings at the top, the “Berat Albayrak group” and the “Bilal Erdoğan group,” while lower down there are groups of MPs known for their closeness to Soylu and former Prime-Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. An intense dispute is taking place between the Berat Albayrak group and the Bilal Erdoğan group. With this factionalism causing disquiet in the party, the view doing the rounds is, “President Erdoğan did not previously get his family members involved in government and party affairs. But now, family members are influential in many matters right up to picking party administrators and cabinet members and civil service appointments.” The following assessments are being made in the AKP lobbies with reference to factionalism in the party and its consequences:
-Cliquism on the rise: The election of Tayyip Erdoğan as President in August 2014 saw the emergence of factionalism and cliquism within the party. After Ahmet Davutoğlu became Prime-Minister, the cliquism that set the “Erdoğan people” against “Davutoğlu people” began to find reflection in both headquarters and the party base as well as the party group. With Davutoğlu having stood down as Prime-Minister, his clique still continues to maintain an existence, all be it limited.
-The Albayrak effect: With President Erdoğan making his son-in-law Berat Albayrak an MP and including him in the cabinet, a new faction now began to crystallise around Albayrak. With Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan wishing to be influential in the party administration, composition of the cabinet and the civil service, there now emerged factionalism around Albayrak and Bilal Erdoğan. There was also talk of Erdoğan’s daughter Sümeyye Erdoğan exercising influence over certain appointments and people close to her being appointed.
-Intense dispute: A dispute is taking place between the Albayrak and Bilal Erdoğan cliques in both party administration and the party organisation as well as the party group. The ongoing dispute between the two individuals from time to time spills over into their close circles. People who have been installed in certain posts thanks to their closeness to Albayrak and Bilal Erdoğan come out in mutual opposition. They were close at first but now relations between them have become strained. Relations between Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Albayrak, to whom he was close before Albayrak entered the cabinet, have become strained. Frequent mention has begun to be made in party lobbies to the tension between the pair. Comments are made that Soylu, having broken away from Albayrak, has created his own circle. The two figures are noted to have clashed over various issues.
-Crisis between Soylu and the mayor: Certain investments in Trabzon are said to lie behind the speech in which Soylu hinted at resignation. Metropolitan Mayor Orhan Fevzi Gümrükçüoğlu is said to have commenced a mosque project with the provincial governor’s approval in disregard of Soylu. With Soylu expressing his disapproval, Gümrükçüoğlu complained about Soylu to President Erdoğan. With the problem escalating, Erdoğan held a meeting with the Trabzon MPs including Soylu and made warnings to them. Soylu abandoned his decision to resign with Erdoğan bringing certain intermediaries into play and calling him in person and persuading him.
-Reaction to “cliquism”: With cliquism on a large and small scale within the party causing nervousness and disquiet among MPs, it is occasionally causing problems over obtaining positions. The view doing the rounds in party lobbies is, “Our General Chair did not previously get his family members involved in government and party affairs. But now, the reverse applies. Even if not now, this will cause trouble further down the line.”
-Disquiet over trolls: Cliquism within the party is also finding reflection in the social media accounts of what are known as “trolls”. At the slightest trouble or problem of which the public is unaware, trolls engage in mutual efforts aimed at perception management and one-upmanship. Commentators note that the factionalism experienced on social media at the time Ahmet Davutoğlu was removed from office as general chair is continuing in the form of fresh cliquism.
“Power” wars in the AKP