Artı Gercek, an independent Turkish news organization, has recently spoken with a source with ties to both Ahmet Davutoglu and Abdullah Gul camps -two names rumored to be forming alternative political parties to Erdogan’s AKP.

Below is their interview with the source:

First off, the source objected to the interviewer’s mention of a “Gul and Babacan Team”, saying that the true number two in this organization after Abdullah Gul, is not Ali Babacan, but rather Besir Atalay. He even goes on to say that a third name, Huseyin Celik, can be added to the top three.

Here’s what he had to say about this:

  • Abdullah Gul and his team see Ali Babacan as a reasonable and controllable persona. And Babacan, in return, trust the team. But Ali Babacan is nor one of the headliners of this organization. The “Godfathers” of this team are Abdullah Gul and Besir Atalay, we can add Hüseyin Celik in there as well. They think they can control Babacan, whereas they are not confident they can control Davutoglu, and thus why they don’t trust him.

Why don’t they trust him?

  • There are many reasons. But the most important one is what Abdullah Gul is thinking. As you know, Erdogan made Davutoglu the prime minister post-haste. This was a block on Gul’s path towards the position. Therefore, Gul is accusing Davutoglu of enabling Erdogan’s one-man rule. And it doesn’t look like he can forgive him. And that’s why he doesn’t trust him. Another one is Davutoglu’s grand visions of “Ottomanship.” In fact, during the meeting, Davutoglu made it clear that he has not changed his stance on this.

What is it that he is after?

  • He says, thanks to his efforts, Turkey’s trade volume with the Middle East and North Africa has gone up tremendously, and that this achievement was overlooked. He made similar comments to the media as well. He says he didn’t get any credit for the achievements, but he was the fall guy for the policies that didn’t work out -such as al Assad’s continuing reign in Syria.

What do you think the chances are for these two groups, were they to step on to the political arena?

  • Or, we should ask whether these groups will ever step up. As for Gul’s team this is possible. They seem to think that if there are no early elections until 2023, it will be very difficult for one party to hold on to power. Davutoglu, on the other hand, is hasty and ambitious. Probably due to him being ousted by both the Erdogan and Gul teams. Davutoglu’s hotheadedness is causing some concerns in Gul’s camp. If he is to enter the arena too soon, that may be a problem for them. It may force Gul to make his appearance earlier than they planned.
  • What I can say when I compare Davutoglu’s and Gul’s teams is this: Davutoglu’s team is definitely the weaker one. They have Feramuz Ustun, Ayhan Sefer Ustun, Abdullah Basci, who are all constricted to their base ideologies. They are much more “Islamist” than the members of Gul’s camp, and they are less effective.
  • Gul has stronger names working for him: We have already gone over Besir Atalay, Huseyin Celik and Ali Babacan. But they also have Sadullah Ergin, Aliye Islam Kavafoglu, former Director of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Gormez. Nimet Cubukcu appears to be close them as well.
  • These are all names that may bring excitement. Gul’s biggest advantage is how opposed he is to Davutoglu’s stance on EU and democracy. Gul is a reasonable choice for most. You can see that in his approach to Kurdish problem. Davutoglu regards the Kurds as subjects of the state, like it was in Ottoman times. He wants the country to grow, and se the Kurds take part in the efforts. Gul’s outlook on the issue is more liberal and closer to EU’s ideals.

So, you believe that, Davutoglu and his team has next to zero chance against Abdullah Gul and his followers?

  • Even if we put Gul aside, Davutoglu has a rather narrow vision for the future. You have all read his manifesto. He only speaks to AKP and its base. They are the only party he can trust. I liken him to deceased Muhsin Yazicioglu. I see him as a figure entering every race, and getting a consistent one-two percent of the vote by his followers. I don’t see him as a candidate for power. But Gul is definitely one. He has base support. He has support from the Kurds, from the West, and he knows this. He is well aware of the uneasiness in AKP, which I think is why he is in contact with CHP.

What type of contact do you mean? Has Gul given up on AKP’s base?

  • No, not at all. He realized that the idealist-nationalists and former ANAP follower are running the show and causing disturbance within the party base. HE also knows that just pocketing the AKP base will not cut it this time. That’s why he is talking to CHP and looking for ways to cut through the divide.

But is Gul powerful enough to cut through the divide?

  • Let me put it this way. Right now, the sects and Islamic capital are uncomfortable with AKP. That’s because they believe, by siding with MHP, AKP has effectively capped their influence within the party. And they are right. Gul wants the CHP capital and Islamist capital to come together. He is counseling them to work together. That was the main point of the meeting on the boat, which made its way to national headlines. Tivnikli and Erenkoy Sect were both topics of conversation during that meeting. Gul has helped them grow in the past. They have a market capital of about 3 billion dollars. It was a very clever move by Gul. What he essentially said to the sects was: “There is no need to worry. If AKP goes, it will be me, not CHP at the helm.”

Do you think Gul has any bearing on the upcoming Istanbul elections?

  • Of course. I don’t know for sure to what extent though. He was influential in naming Imamoglu in the first place.

How do you mean?

  • Gul presented a list of names to Kilicdaroglu, where Ekrem Imamoglu was one of the recommended names. And he was influent there. As I said, his number one priority is to keep the Islamists calm and continue to cooperate with CHP. Gul and his team have no qualms about Imamoglu. They are, however, wary of names like Muharrem Ince surrounding him. And CHP is doing its best to avoid that. Imamoglu and Ince were spotted together during the Friday prayers in Beylikduzu, but steps were quickly taken to keep them apart. Here is something more curious: Another person who is close to Imamoglu and is an establish leftist, wanted to attend the boat meeting. He went there with Kilicdaroglu, but he was not admitted in.

Who are they?

  • You will read about them soon through new developments. But I can say this with confidence: they are well aware of what is going on and didn’t want to be left behind. And they weren’t admitted because they are a woman.

How will the Istanbul election results affect all this?

  • Davutoglu knows that in case Binali Yildirim wins, Erdogan will move to kick him out. That’s why he is trying to influence Felicity Party. Gul, too, is aware. I don’t think a potential Binali Yildirim win will cause much change. But if he loses, we may expect some turbulence up ahead.

What do you think of Bulent Arinc and Abdulkadir Aksu taking roles within the AKP once again?

  • I see that as Erdogan handing out service pay to these people. But these people do not need a hand out from Erdogan. They are both people with political will, they have never been part of any of these affairs.


Originally published in Turkish at: