Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

The new form of politics in Turkey

Leadership requires managing multiple interacting layers at the same time. It also entails meeting conflicting needs and demands simultaneously without allowing them to collide with each other. Precise, effective timing and ordering is a sine qua non. It is crucial to keep the balance of what needs to be done. In reviewing, you should not lose control or reproduce disputes. This can be achieved not by succumbing to the clichés, but breaking them.

Leadership requires managing multiple interacting layers at the same time. It also entails meeting conflicting needs and demands simultaneously without allowing them to collide with each other. Precise, effective timing and ordering is a sine qua non. It is crucial to keep the balance of what needs to be done. In reviewing, you should not lose control or reproduce disputes. This can be achieved not by succumbing to the clichés, but breaking them. I write this to make sense of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s policy on the March 31 elections.

We have often talked about the fact that local elections have given the parties the task of learning the right lessons and doing what is necessary. From this standpoint, some circles insistently highlight that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) should review itself overtly. It is true that a 17-year government should always be reviewing and renewing itself.

And in fact, the AK Party has been reviewing and renewing itself in parts since 2015. Also, problems and solutions are known within party circles. However, it is essential that this review is carried out in a way that will not harm the People’s Alliance and intraparty solidarity. For this reason, the aspect of struggle should not be ignored. While doing this, the AK Party should not undermine its consciousness of resisting many attacks. A way of review that will render the party weak and demoralize it will only bring troubles.

Here, Erdoğan’s leadership comes to the fore. He strives to ensure the renewal without allowing any contention and conflict within the party, especially after the local elections. Well, if you ask what is different this time, I would say that alliances have changed the nature of politics. The boxing match is no longer the only game in town.

In brief, putting pressure on your rivals with harsh criticism is not enough to ensure your victory. As the phrase goes, it is time to take advantage of your rival’s power and tactics using new methods. Parties and leaders should be aware that their classical methods have been learnt and thus mobilize multiple tactics and discourses.

The need to direct your base and the electorate accordingly is obvious. This can be achieved by ensuring balance between review, renewal and the perseverance of struggle. If one of these aspects is missed or exaggerated, disputes will start within the party or the alliance.

Erdoğan’s messages at the Kızılcahamam meeting illustrate the approach of an experienced leader in ensuring the balance. Especially in an environment where the results of the Istanbul elections are not yet clear, it is very sensible that he has extended review and renewal over a period of time. It is also reasonable that he has emphasized the struggle while controlling timing.

This is why he blends change and renewal with recalling of the sensation of cause. The reason why he combines his call for the “Turkey Alliance” with his criticism of the opposition is that he observes the balance. At a time when domestic and foreign politics are intertwined and when foreign politics heats up over a number of issues, from the S-400s to the Iran sanctions, it would be naïve to make self-criticism alone. Of course, review is essential. It is an inevitable necessity to see the shortcomings and fulfill the duties assigned by the nation. This will bring healthy results only if carried out with the leader’s timing and ordering. In this case, it will benefit not your rivals, but you.
[Daily Sabah, 3 May 2019]
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