This article was published in Ahval News on August 24, 2018.
Turkey’s ruling party rejuvenates itself
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), continues to rejuvenate itself. The party’s chairman, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has always been in favour of a permanent rotation of posts within the party. Bearing this in mind, Erdoğan introduced, at the foundation stage of the party, a rule in the party’s internal regulations providing that its members of parliament and mayors should not be allowed to stand as a candidate in more than three successive elections. No other political party in Turkey has such a restriction, which may account for their shortcomings. This allows the AKP to test more members in executive posts and retain the better performers. This is one of the advantages of the AKP above all other political parties in Turkey.
Erdoğan must have noticed that politicians who seize a position in the party hierarchy or in the government stay there too long and block new blood coming in. A continuous change in the party also is also popular with the electorate, which likes to see new faces.
A comprehensive debate on whether this rule should be maintained was held in the party as the third four-year term was approaching its end. Erdoğan maintained the initial rule of three successive terms and is now reaping its advantages.
The providence of God helped AKP members of parliament serving their third term. The fourth term lasted only five months because of the anticipated elections and they became eligible for running for three more successive terms. This provided Erdoğan with a flexibility to re-designate as candidates the party members who had performed well.
The new presidential system introduced a new model for ministerial posts. Ministers will no longer be picked from members of parliament, or if a parliamentarian is made minister his title and prerogatives as an MP come to an end. The 16 most prestigious posts in the administration will therefore be closed to MPs. But a party like the AKP, which dominates every segment of the Turkish state, has a slew of other opportunities to satisfy, one way or another, those who completed their third successive terms. According to the degree of their success in parliament, they are appointed as deputy minister, general manager of public companies, ambassador, advisor to the president of the republic, or high-level bureaucrat.
Many former ministers who are re-elected because they did not serve three successive terms are made chairmen of the select committees in the parliament, which are the next most prestigious posts after the parliamentary speaker and deputy-speakers. This sometimes causes disillusionment among members of parliament coveting such positions.
Last week, Erdoğan infused new blood into the party structure. Fifty-eight percent of the members of the highest decision-making body of the party, the Central Administrative Board, were replaced. This is the party organ most affected by the rejuvenation.
The AKP passed successive laws to reduce the age of eligibility to be an MP from 30 to 25. Before this amendment, Turkey was one of the countries with the oldest eligibility age. Later, a new law further reduced the eligibility age to 18. This was a reform aiming at luring the youth to vote to the AKP, but a bigger segment of the youth still vote for opposition parties.
Now eyes are turned to municipal elections to be held on March 24, 2019. It is still unclear whether the rejuvenation exercise will also be extended to them. Experience and performance are more important qualifications in municipal elections. A mayor has more power than an MP. The metropolitan mayors of mega-cities of 10 to 15 million inhabitants have to be compared to the heads of states or governments in many member countries of the EU. Other conditions being equal, a younger candidate may be preferred, but experience and past performance cannot be put aside when one chooses a future mayor.
Rejuvenation is also a valuable investment in the future of the party. Erdoğan may be considering rejuvenation both for injecting dynamism into the party structure and seat the party on more solid grounds for the future.