Atlantic Council

New Atlanticist

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has designated Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to be its new leader and the country's 26th prime minister when current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is officially inaugurated as president next week. Davutoğlu will become the third prime minister to hail from the ranks of the AKP since it first came to power in 2002.

Erdoğan’s selection of Davutoğlu stems from a relationship based on mutual trust between two men. Davutoğlu continued to support Erdoğan in his most difficult days, most notably, during last summer’s Gezi Park protests, the December 17 graft probe operations, and Erdogan’s fight against the “parallel state”. Furthermore, Davutoğlu is generally regarded as having the same policy vision as Erdogan, which is especially important given indications by Erdogan that he hopes to run Turkey by employing rarely used powers of the presidential post and transforming the presidency into a more powerful executive office. If the AKP wins the 2015 general elections, Davutoğlu and Erdoğan will work together until at least 2019.

The New Prime Minister’s Agenda

While announcing the AKP’s choice for president, Erdoğan revealed Davutoglu was chosen due to his “determination to fight the ‘parallel state”, i.e. the followers of the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who was once a supporter of AKP, but later became its priority target following alleged ramifications within Turkey’s bureaucracy –mostly its police and judiciary- for trying to overthrow Erdoğan. 

After his designation yesterday, Davutoğlu stated: "The movement of the AKP was not the product of a certain context. It is a movement rooted in a state tradition that walks to the future, and our president is our leader", and added that neither the "parallel state" nor any other force could stop this march.

Another important mission waiting for Davutoğlu as Prime Minister is the advancement of the peace process with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Davutoğlu’s most important task, however, is to secure a victory for the AKP in the 2015 general elections. The AKP must win a two-thirds majority in Turkey’s 550-member Parliament, in order to directly amend the constitution and transform Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one.  Another option is to secure at least 330 seats to hold a referendum which will enable a change of the constitution. Therefore, Davutoğlu’s chief mission is to create the ideological foundations of the AKP’s “New Turkey” perspective and work on the drafting of a new constitution.


Turkey’s foreign policy

Davutoğlu’s book, “Strategic Depth,” laid the foundations for his foreign policy vision of "zero problems with neighbors" strategy, which has been defined by “soft-power strategies”, "multi-dimensional foreign policy" and "proactive and preventive peace diplomacy". Davutoglu's objective has been to transform Turkey into not only a regional power, but a world power as well, and “to win friends and influence by maximizing Turkey’s strategic position, its historical connections to its many diverse neighborhoods, cultural links and economic wellbeing”. To transform Turkey into a world power, Davutoğlu has also aimed for Turkey to play the role of mediator in Middle East conflicts. This policy was often criticized by academics and observers as neo-Ottoman for promoting "pan-Islamism" in order to restore Turkish influence throughout the former Ottoman Empire.

Arab uprisings, however, undermined this policy as Turkey found itself surrounded by crises which resulted in strained relations with Iraq, Syria, Israel and Egypt. In Syria, Turkey has been accused by some international observers of backing Al-Qaeda linked opposition groups in order to quickly overthrow the Assad regime and control the Kurdish group (the Democratic Union Party, or PYD) of northern Syria, which is linked to the PKK. On the other hand, Turkey has made extraordinary efforts to help Syrian refugees and in 2012, spent more than $1 billion on relief projects aimed mainly at Syrian refugees.

The coup in Egypt disrupted Turkey’s close cooperation once developed with Egypt and strained ties with Gulf monarchies. Relations with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s went sour after Turkey sheltered Iraq’s fugitive Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, in 2012, and conducted oil deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Turkey’s policies on Syria and Egypt gave rise to an image of the AKP as “a pan-Sunni Islamist force intent on empowering the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Although Turkey has gone from “zero problems” to “zero friends” in the Middle East, it was Davutoğlu’s strategic vision that makes it possible to even discuss Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East today, a vast and strategic neighboring region that was ignored and neglected by Turkey until the AKP came to power. 

On top of all these issues, the seizure of Turkey’s Mosul Consulate by the Islamic State in June and the consulate workers held hostage who have yet to be released, leave Davutoğlu and his successor in an extremely difficult position.

Several journalists close to the government think that Hakan Fidan, the current chief of Turkish Intelligence could be appointed deputy prime minister and simultaneously responsible for the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and the Foreign Ministry. Other rumored names include Ömer Çelik, Culture and Tourism Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (European affairs minister) and Numan Kurtulmuş, Deputy Chairman of the AKP.


About Ahmet Davutoğlu

After an academic career as a professor of international relations, Davutoğlu served the AKP since 2002, first as an adviser to Prime Ministers Abdullah Gul and Recep Tayyip Erdogan and as foreign minister for the past five years. In 2012, he was listed by Time magazine among the most influential people of the year. In her memoir, “Hard Choices”, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Davutoğlu as "a person who brought passion and wisdom to his post”. Davutoğlu is married to Sare Davutoğlu, a gynecologist and anti-abortion activist and is a father of four children. He speaks English, German and Arabic. 


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