We are now at the point in Turkish politics in which everybody is speculating and talking about a Post-Erdoğan era. There is still time before elections but political analysts are already busy.
Turkey analyst Steven Cook, claimed in his Foreign Policy piece that former head of the Turkish Armed Forces; current Defense Minister Hulusi Akar is being seen as a potential successor to President Erdoğan.
Cook’s analysis does not depend on facts but rather rumors. Cook states that Erdoğan is rumored to be too sick to continue governing. Cook writes “Of course, these rumors are most often repeated by people outside of Turkey or more than a few steps removed from the president’s inner circle.” This indicates that he has probably been getting such information from Gülenist circles. You don’t need to dig deep to hear similar stories, Gülenist journalists have their YouTube channels and have been preaching such conspiracy theories in each of their videos. Some information they are giving might be true while some might be totally made up. It is not always possible to know. Thus, my first instinct was to not take Cook’s analysis seriously.
However, Akar’s name came up in an interview I had with the head of ORC polling Mehmet Pösteki. Pösteki is a pollster who is extremely close to AKP circles. He is known as one of the pro-AKP pollsters, and he does not deny that. Now Pösteki is in a sense critical of AKP. He is not critical of the President himself, but he claims the circle around him is feeding the President false news, they are painting a better picture of AKP and Turkey to please the president or to implement their own agenda, and that this causes Erdoğan to make wrong decisions. Pösteki claims that not only the President but the AKP’s local organizations have distanced themselves from the public. So, the AKP has a distorted image of Turkey and are therefore not able to come up with the right policies. Pösteki puts the blame on the communication strategy of the Palace and the party. He gives references the ‘good old days’ of the party, when the communication strategy was done by the martyred Erol Olçok. (Olçok died during the July 15 coup attempt). Well the good old days are gone, and every autocratic leader who locks themselves in a palace ends up disconnected from the reality.
Mehmet Pösteki said that it is highly likely Erdoğan would want to run for one more term. However, he added, in the case that he would not be able to run or he would not want to run, Hulusi Akar’s name has been circulating in AKP circles. Why Akar though? He is a former soldier, he has no political background, him landing on former President Gül’s garden in a helicopter, to talk him out of the idea of running as the oppositions Presidential candidate in 2018 is fresh in people’s memories. Pösteki says his positions in the latest Syria and Libya operations made him win favor with the AKP politicians and voters. He appears as a balanced and unifying figure.
It is hard to know what is being talked about behind the closed doors of AKP big guns. It is surprising to hear Akar’s name circulating. The AKP came to power promising to end the ward of the army and the bureaucracy. In time the AKP became the bureaucracy itself, they have been the source of tutelage and pressure against freedoms. Hulusi Akar being seen as a potential ‘unifying’ leader sounds very Sisi-like. The AKP has founded its power on securitarian policies, now it seems the party cannot exist without it.