Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has received a political blow from
which he may not recover.
His problems began in earnest in the summer
with the outbreak of the Gezi Park protests, and now a corruption scandal at the
highest levels of his government has put his continued leadership in serious
The military coup in Egypt in July, which ousted the Muslim
Brotherhood, worked to begin a regional pushback against Islamist
Erdogan’s ruling Islamist AKP party as well as large parts of
the bureaucracy have been penetrated by the Hizmet movement of his previous
Islamist ally, Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish cleric.
Turkish nationalist opposition Republican People’s Party, founded by Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk in 1924, and the Islamist Gulen movement find themselves opposing
The brewing struggle under the surface between the AKP
Party and Gulen’s movement comes down to “two radically different views of
Islam,” according to Harold Rhode, a senior fellow at the New York-based
Gatestone Institute and a former adviser at the Pentagon.
“In the first,
Erdogan’s faction identifies and allies itself with the [Arab] Muslim
Brotherhood,” said Rhode in an article for the Gatestone Institute.
the second view, supporters of Fethullah Gulen look down upon ‘Arab Islam.’ To
them, ‘real’ Islam is ‘the Islam of the Turks’ – meaning the people who live in
Turkey, Central Asia, and Western China.”
Now we are seeing “an alliance
of convenience” between Gulen’s movement and the secularists, wrote
Rhode told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that in the Middle
East, competitors pounce when they sense weakness, and the summer protests
possibly led to such a perception by Gulen and his well-positioned
Rhode said there is little chance Erdogan would step down,
because it would be a shame for him – “much better to be killed than be shamed
and lose your reputation.”
What happened here is that Erdogan was not
aware of what was going on and suddenly woke up and understood what was
happening and how the Gulen movement was slowly taking over and infiltrating
centers of state power, including his own party.
“Erdogan realized he was
in trouble, that the problem was not the secularists – the problem was the
Gulenists,” said Rhode.
Burak Bekdil, a columnist for Hurriyet, said that
perhaps there will be a move to “confine” Erdogan to the powerless presidency,
and “then hit the road with AKP version 2.0, a softer, less confrontational and
more pluralistic version of the party, ideally run by [current President
Taner Aydin, the bureau chief in Israel of the Anadolu
Agency, the official government news agency in Turkey, told the Post that “of
course he [Erdogan] will not fall. He is still strong and will be stronger” at
the end of this episode.