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AKP version II ?

Tuesday 3 June 2008, by Yusuf Kanli

Particularly after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) chose to engage in a “counter offensive” ridiculing the indictment against it and the chief prosecutor rather than presenting its preliminary defense to the Constitutional Court, the expectation that the ruling party will be closed down has increased.

In addition, discussions regarding the establishment of an “AKP version II” party have begun to spread like a malign tumor.

Some distinguished members of the ruling party have started pointing privately to the “mistakes of leadership” and “wrong priorities” as the primary causes of the party’s troubled situation – as well as that of the country’s political and economic stability. Speculations have started to spread similar to those following the June 2001 closure of the Virtue Party (FP) claiming that it was very likely that AKP’s closure will lead to the establishment of two new parties; one by the “conservative” elements loyal to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and which would follow more or less the same political line of the AKP, and the other one bringing together the present-day reformists – the nationalists, liberals and deputies with a leftist background – and becoming a party closer to the center-right.

While there is little talk on the potential “new conservative party” – partly because of the conviction that such a party would be doomed to remain a marginal political movement like the Saadet Party (SP) established by the conservatives loyal to Necmettin Erbakan after the FP’s closure in 2001 – speculations are abundant regarding the possible “closer to center” formation to be undertaken by the present-day reformists.

Such a new center-right formation emerging from within the AKP in the aftermath of the closure case verdict – a scenario based on the “conviction” that the AKP would definitely be closed down – could serve like a magnet, attracting the widely dispersed center-right elements within Parliament, as well as outside Parliament and deal a deadly blow to the already faltered two center-right losers, the Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) and the Democratic Party (DP).

Toptan, Şener or who?

According to one claim, the new party or the AKP version II would be headed by Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan and its name has already been chosen as “The New Democracy Party.” Toptan, who lost his leadership bid to Tansu Çiller in 1993 and parted ways with the True Path Party (DYP) which became the DP just before the July 22 vote, has been a highly respected name in center-right political tradition and his leadership could boost such a new party becoming the address of a united center right political movement that Turkey has been aspiring to achieve since the 1980 closure of political parties by the military administration.

Although what is mentioned amounts to little more than the political gossip that has been spreading around Ankara for some time, it is obvious that the success of such a new “reformist” formation – paradoxical, but very much like the 2001 establishment of the “reformist” AKP on the ashes of the FP – will largely depend who the “caretaker” of Erdoğan will be as “provisional leader” of the new conservative successor of the AKP?

If, for example, Abdullah Gül had won the SP convention rather than Recai Kutan – who was backed by Erbakan – there would not be a “reformist” split from the SP and there would not be an AKP. Most likely, there would not be even an AKP victory in the 2002 parliamentary elections.

Thus, as Turkey moves closer to the end of the AKP case – which appears will be concluded much earlier than October or November as was earlier expected – the search for a “caretaker” for Erdoğan as well as a search for a charismatic leader for the “reformist” Version II party will gather speed. Whoever is more charismatic and whoever is more “appealing” for the nation – initially of course for the remaining AKP deputies – will emerge as the new victor in this struggle for power.

What Turkish Union of Chambers (TOBB) boss Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, former deputy premier Abdüllatif Şener, Toptan and such eminent names will decide will be of great importance in the shaping of developments in the post-AKP era.

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Source : Wednesday, May 7, 2008 TDN

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