Assessing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Departure from Government

26 May



[This post was published in modified form a week ago in Al Jazeera Turka. Since then Binali Yildirim has been selected as the new prime minister of Turkey, reflective of a choice made by President Erdogan. Mr. Yildirim had served for many years in the AKP Government as Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs, and Communications. He was successful in this post, given credit for the great improvement in the public transport systems in Turkish cities and for modernizing Turkey’s network of inter-city roads and highways. Yildirim is widely regarded as an Erdogan loyalist with a pragmatic approach to politics. Of course, only the future will allow us to discern whether this shift in governmental leadership exerts a discernible influence on the domestic policy agenda and on the regional and global role of Turkey. Issues to watch closely include the approach taken to Syria and ISIS, and whether possibilities for reconciliation with the Kurdish political movement are explored, or are abruptly rejected.

There are two disturbing developments. The first is the parliamentary move to deprive members of their legislative immunity from criminal prosecution, which was explicitly aimed at Kurdish parliamentarians who are members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and accused of lending support to PKK terrorism. The other initiative is a call for a constitutional amendment that would end the nonpartisan character of the presidency by allowing the president to be the head of the governing political party, in effect, making Erdogan head of the AKP as well as President of the country. Of course, Erdogan has been indirectly playing this kind of partisan role on a de facto basis, thus the authorization would merely be regularizing a practice that currently violates the spirit, and probably the letter, of the current constitution]   


The resignation of Davutoglu seems to be enveloping Turkey in mists of partisan speculation, which opposition forces contend has taken the nation a big step closer to the abyss of autocratic rule. The move does seem clearly dictated by President Recip Tayyip Erdogan’s determined effort to replace the Turkish parliamentary system with a presidential system as legalized through a process constitutional reform.


To some extent the confusion surrounding the departure of Davutoglu’s departure from the heights of governmental rule is a reflection of the public posture adopted by the two leaders. On Erdogan’s side we encounter the assertion that “Prime Minister Davutoglu’s decision will be for the better of Turkey and the nation.” This seems at variance with the spirit, if not letter, of Davutoglu’s stark declaration that his resignation “ not my wish, but it is a necessity.” Possibly, the common ground here is the recognition that the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the governing process need one clear and undisputed leader for policy purposes, and that explains the apparent downgrading of the prime ministerial post as connected to the overt assertion of the univocal primacy of Erdogan’s presidency.


Of course, there are more elaborate speculations and partisan spins, mostly difficult to evaluate, about whether the true explanation of these unsettling events has been friction between these two towering figures who have dominated Turkish politics in the 21st century is a matter of substantive disagreement on any number of issues. Or is this event better explained by reference to the tensions that had developed between Davutoglu and the AKP Parliamentary leadership on more prosaic questions of procedures and appointments. In this latter interpretation, the resignation of Davutoglu, and his replacement by a political figure lacking his international prominence, are enabling Erdogan and the AKP to coordinate their common effort to put the Turkish ship of state in efficient running order from the point of view of the presidency.


While Erdogan portrays this dramatic move as ‘Davutoglu’s decision,’ the opposition, always relentless in their often exaggerated criticisms of AKP governance ever since 2002, describes what has happened as a ‘palace coup.’ Reflecting on such an extreme presentation of Davutoglu’s departure suggests its opportunism. The opposition has long decried Erdogan’s takeover of government, portraying Davutoglu during his 20 months of service as head of government as nothing more than being ‘a shadow prime minister,’ sometimes even portraying him unflatteringly as ‘a puppet.’


And yet, if Erdogan was actually in full control all along, the resignation, whether voluntary or forced, is merely an outward acknowledgement of the de facto hierarchy that had already made the president the supreme leader of the country. Under these circumstances to treat what happened as a coup is deeply misleading as the resignation creates no alteration in the previously operative structure of political power in Ankara. Additionally, Davutoglu with seeming spontaneity indicated that he would never give voice to criticisms of the president, insisting that he leaves office continuing to have a ‘brotherly’ feeling toward Erdogan. This is hardly the language of someone who has been ousted from power as a result of a coup!


What may be really at stake in the course of this reshuffling is streamlining the constitutional restructuring process that seems so high on Erdogan’s agenda. It is to be expected that next prime minister, presumably reflecting Erdogan’s choice, will be a person that possesses sufficient clout with Parliament to push the process through quickly and in accordance with the sort of presidential system that Erdogan favors.


There is some reason to suppose that Davutoglu preferred what might be called ‘a republican presidency’ that sacrifices a measure of executive control for the sake of ‘checks and balances’ and ‘separation of powers[ while Erdogan is insistent upon ‘an imperial presidency’ that allows the president to run the show with minimum interference from other branches of government. Assuming that constitutional reform will bring some variant of the presidential system into being, this choice of model is crucial to the sort of political future that awaits the Turkish people. It is hard to imagine an imperial presidency, especially with Erdogan at its head, that manifests sensitivity to human rights, including freedom of expression and the human rights of dissenting individuals. The arrest and prosecution of journalists and academicians in recent months even prior to the adoption of a presidential system does seem to vindicate the worst fears about the fate of Turkish democracy.


At the same time maybe the issue is being inflated beyond its true importance. Many informed observers have observed that Erdogan had long since transformed the presidency as set forth in the 1982 Constitution into a vehicle for his unchecked authority. If this is a correct interpretation of the way the Turkish government has been operating in recent years, at least since Erdogan became the first popularly elected president in 2014, then the issue of institutionalization of this style of leadership has mostly to do with the future, and especially with the structure of governance in a post-Erdogan Turkey.


However, if the opposition is exaggerating Erdogan’s curent power and governing style, then it is possible that a new constitution, which requires a two-thirds supermajority in Parliament, will enhance the actual, as well as the legal role of the office of president in Turkey. By placing such stress on this move from a parliamentary to a presidential system Erdogan appears to believe that his role would be solidified as well as legitimated if the sort of constitution that he seeks is properly adopted as a reality. This may be the most consequential question bound up with Davutoglu’s resignation, and yet it is sometimes downplayed because of public fascination with the dramatic interaction of these two Turkish political figures, which pushes to one side the question of restructuring the constitutional architecture of the Turkish government.


Finally, there is the question of foreign relations. The US State Department has formally avowed that Davutoglu’s resignation is an internal Turkish issue lacking any significance for U.S.-Turkish relations. Of greater concern is Turkey’s far more complex relationship with Europe, and particularly the possible impact on Syrian refugee containment, Turkish visa-free travel rights in Schengen Europe, European promises of a fast track approach to Turkish accession negotiations, and European demands that the Turkish anti-terrorism law be amended so that it cannot be used to pursue journalists and professors.


There are also many indications that European leaders were comfortable dealing with Davutoglu on such matters, and are far less willing to cooperate with Erdogan. It also seems that Erdogan on his part is disinclined to satisfy European preconditions for an effective working relationship or speeded up accession talks. At the same time, Turkey and the EU are tied together by the presence of strong interests. 40% of Turkish international trade is with EU countries, and European tourism is a vital source of foreign exchange earnings and sustains the tourist sector in Turkey that was already hurting due to the upsurge of tensions with Russia. Besides, the large Turkish minorities in Germany and elsewhere makes these diplomatic tensions have unsettling domestic ramifications in Europe, including an upsurge in Islamophobia.


It should be realized that these questions arise in an historical context where a series of security concerns pose dangerous challenges to Turkish stability and development. These issues of leadership and constitutional structure, although serious are clearly secondary to the great challenges facing the Turkish nation at this point, above all the renewal of Kurdish civil strife and horrific urban warfare, but also the spillovers from the Syrian civil war in the form of ISIS and refugee flows, as well as tensions with Russia and Iran. It is to be hoped that people of good will throughout Turkey can find common ground on the urgency of these matters, and not remain distracted by trying to solve the puzzle of the leadership shakeup that has followed Davutoglu’s forced resignation.




11 Responses to “Assessing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Departure from Government”

  1. Beau Oolayforos May 28, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    Thanks, as always, for explaining urgent, though sometimes obscure issues. Your bottom line is most telling – it is impossible for anyone living in the US really to appreciate the dire political conditions in Turkey. When you talk about “people of good will throughout Turkey…”, we should extend it to people of good will world-wide, because these problems can’t be solved by Turkey alone – the refugee problem, which the world is trying to make Turkey swallow, the war-next-door, which seems to have dashed any hope of peaceful Kurdish reconciliation, and on and on.

    • Richard Falk May 28, 2016 at 9:24 am #

      Very much in agreement with the last part of your comment. We continue misleadingly to think that
      states can ignore the world while solving these complex problems that are not confined to a single
      sovereign entity.

      • Gene Schulman May 28, 2016 at 9:57 am #

        I am very surprised that it took so long for this post to elicit a reply, and wonder why there have not been more. The Turkish issue is a very important one and one would have thought there would be more interest in it. I am particularly thankful to you, Richard, for this explanation after having been querying you for so long about it.

        From where I sit, I think the Turkish government is complicit in the horrors that are being perpetrated in that corner of the world. I am not sympathetic to its position, either on the refugees or the Kurds. I think the PM’s resignation puts him in my own camp.

      • Richard Falk May 28, 2016 at 10:57 am #


        I am not sure about your second paragraph. First, I think Davutoglu has denied any conflict on substance
        with Erdogan, and indicated he will not make any public criticism. Secondly, I agree with you mostly on
        the Kurds, although the PKK was co-responsible for the renewal of violent strife, but on refugees aside
        from the dubious EU deal, Turkey has played a responsible role, giving refuge to over 2.7 million Syrian


  2. Ceylan May 29, 2016 at 4:57 am #

    For health reasons I took some time off from reading international (or national) news and/or essays for the fact that they literally make me sick; especially when there people are dying or, suffering to the utmost hence they make me break my fast of not reading and commenting:

    When, “from where” we “sit” by our computers in our comfortable homes and make, at least for me, demagogy by our comments on the dire crisis and “obscure issues” that’s taking place, and yes, in this “corner of the world”, I believe we have no right to intellectualise any “brotherhood”s;

    With all my respect and love to Richard,

    Since 2002, in the name of this particular “brotherhood”, in this particular corner of the world there are children and women sexually harassed, abused, raped, killed increasing in numbers each day; their naked bodies (or parts of them) are dragged and exposed publicly; yes, Kurds are killed simply for the fact that they are Kurds, never mind non-Muslim or Sunni’s in particular; Kurdish towns are bombed to ground zero’s; hundreds of thousand of Kurds have become refugees in their own country; education system has been designed so that practically more and more girls do not go to school; never mind the curriculum that have more hours of Arabic & Quran education rather than science, English or arts; corruption is at all levels including judiciary system which has literally collapsed for the whim of a president; economy came to a halt; and, yes Richard, due to a “puppet” PM who in the name of “brotherhood” turned his gaze away to fulfil his in-disguise thesis of a greater, regional imperial Turkey which he failed to achieve that too.

    As I have mentioned in our private correspondence, I feel almost sorry that he’s gone, especially when I saw a recent photo of the P and the current PM together with their wives at a public opening in Diyarbakir (with what face they’ve been there is beyond me!); I see nothing but two pairs of monstrosities.

    Yet, the Frankenstein has been created hand in hand together with the world/West.

    After this long prologue I go to Gene’s comment and re-phrase his first sentence of the second paragraph :

    I think the US government is complicit in the horrors that are being perpetrated in that corner of the world.

    Or we can replace US to UK or, even better add them all up into one.

    I appreciate your comment Richard, on ” solving these complex problems that are not confined to a single
    sovereign entity.”

    And a thank you goes to Beau for ” the world is trying to make Turkey swallow, the war-next-door, which seems to have dashed any hope of peaceful Kurdish reconciliation, ”

    Indeed it is a big bite to “swallow” which, in “that”, or this, corner of the world the mutual child of the world, Frankenstein, is cultivating even a greater “horror”/bite than estimated -to be “swallowed” by any “entity”, at this point/moment in time which will soon become a world wide suicide bomb, by simply dumping the responsibility of it all on to Turkey to accommodate them all:

    The short sighted West who thinks is paying (or buying !) the future of the refugees and turn their gaze away from national issues “in that corner of the world” do not realise that The Pandora’s Box has been opened.


  3. Gene Schulman May 30, 2016 at 11:05 pm #

    Yesterday, it was announced on TV news programs that President Erdogan of Turkey is going to strengthen ties between the government and Islamic law, in the attempt to make Turkey an Islamic State (the opposite of what recently happened in Tunisia).

    Today, this appeared on the ICH website:

    It doesn’t look very much like Turkey is fostering democracy in its ‘corner of the world’.

  4. Kata Fisher June 2, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    A Note:

    Turkey is as a nation is always under the risk due to the generational doings that are binding. They have not achieved actual sovereignty.

    Suppression of Ecclesiastical Diocese and improper handling / destruction of Eucharistical Species, specifically – besides killing and martyrdom of non-Islamic peoples.
    They have to look and see how they will remain stable because they have not achieved sovereignty (in actual terms) as a region as a nation/inhabitance in the region.

    In all efforts they need to peacefully avoid any conflict – and commit themeless to restoration of lost public servants that are of value to those efforts.

    Sovereignty to Islamic Peoples/Nations comes by the actual Islam. If and when a Sovereignty is possible to Islamic Peoples in Turkey – it will be difficult if not impossible without Grace of God. This is why: They mix up the office/s of the Priest-King Order.

    Because of the generational bindings, they should take their pursuits with diligence. What I am saying is not this: “Turkey can’t brake of generational bindings and become sovereignty a nation” they certainly can do that as Islamic people.

    As you know – sovereignty to a people or a nation comes with some social justice according to their discerned, authentic texts – if they are to impose Laws of Faith and no religious laws.

    As you know – in Iran judicial system will allow a murderer to be set free if he is forgiven by the family of those whose bloodline was killed. It is the Faith-diplomatic example in a judicial system. The judicial system is not street killings of the civil-mobs who do beheadings and who do stoning at just anyone’s accusation – outside a proven judicial system.

    With this, I can assure you that there is still risk to the Turkey as a nation because they have not achieved sovereignty due to the generational conflicts, suppression and destruction of Eucharistical Species and properties.

  5. Laurie Knightly June 4, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    Kata’s statements, of course, are absurd. An embarrassment to see printed here……

    Turkey became a sovereign nation, Treaty of Lausanne, 1923. It is: founding member of UN, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, member state of Council of Europe, NATO, associate member EU, G20, WTO, agreements with European Free Trade Association, Black Sea Economic Cooperation Business Council, observer status Association of Caribbean Stater, other trade agreements various countries including Israel.

    Turkey is not a member of Kata’s ‘Eucharistical Species and Properties’ and will not be applying for inclusion/approval.

    As to Gene Schulman’s comments being naive [Dummy in Service]. How so? Did he say that Erdogan had met some specific Islamic criteria for super inner sanctum membership? Considering the number of warring factions over authentic Islamahood, Erdogan should qualify – albeit in competition.

    • Kata Fisher June 5, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

      A Note:

      “They have separated Church and state, and they have committed themselves to annul sovereignty’s to a nation.” “They have religious wishes and evil pursuits trough the state.” “They have given themeless over to many grave harms and grave risks.”

      Then, I have had brainstormed on this: Separation of the Church and the state has to be annulled – it is giving everyone and everything over to the devil, including Jews and their (claimed sovereign) pursuits.

      Hi, Lauri!

      You apparently do not understand transfiguration of Natural Matter(s) into the Eucharistical Species – (Mysteries of Church Faith). There is entire Apostolic Church Order and Apostolic commands to the Liturgical Way and handling of the Eucharistical Species and / or natural Items: Bread substance, Wine substance, and Sacrificial-Water (blessed) substance.

      Likewise, you may not understand Suppression of “Judicial Person(s)” in any region/area (including Diocese and its Jurisdictions). According to the Law of the Church – Judicial Person is perpetual in its nature (Not natural person/s) – Back to the Church Order and Liturgical Items.

      “Judicial Person(s)” is very complicated part of the Church Doctrine and Church Law.

      A Diocese is Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions, always.

      A Diocese includes Mother Church – Apostolic and all her sects/cults – including members of Moter Church-Apostolic and her members and “Judicial Person(s)” within all sects/cults within a Diocese.

      “Judicial Person(s)” can be public and private, civil and ecclesiastical.

      In fact, my claim is solid that Turkey has not Ecclesiastical legitimately achieved sovereignty due to their generational bindings to Ecclesiastical- illegal suppression of “Judicial Person(s)” and Diocese. They are always at risk – just as Bosnian Muslims were always at risk, in a conquered by their ancestors region. Trust me; I know what I am talking about. I just happen know and understand my stuff.

      The World does want to see Turkey solid, and sovereign in the region in civil and in Ecclesiastical terms. In fact, I do believe that they can achieve a perfect way to the Islamic sovereign Land in the area that can be based on Legitimate judicial Items of Faith-Laws. I also do believe that they can do much better then Iran, however. But I do not have any criticism for Iran and their judicial system, at all.

      In their Judicial Law Iran submits ultimate / mortal judgements to “Judicial Person(s)” and the non-judicial person that is Believers/Unbelievers (as people) trough a judicial system. Its an absolute Faith-diplomacy/democracy (in specific example).

      Right now, it may be a way to harsh according to the times – but present times will also allow for the much better understanding of Islamic Judicial System and context of its Laws.

      In addition to that, any Judicial System is responsible to update their Laws according to legitimate claims (Civil and Ecclesiastical).

      Islamic Laws of Iran is even much more human – if you compare it to illegal things what satanic-charismatics do to the population – they seal anyone that is not in a valid Baptism – or the Spirit that is in the Church of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (generationally and personally) – in fact, they seal them to the Devil and trip them to blaspheme God’s Spirit.

      They submit large segments of the population to the spirit of Antichrist – the spirit of the Devil, in its satanic seal. Satanic seals and blaspheming of God’s Spirit will labyrinth civil and Ecclesiastical peoples straight into the hell – even of they are not of the devil, and in hell themselves.

      If you do not understand any of this – I may be moved to explain.

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