Davutoglu, Turkey’s docile prime minister

“The ability to fight the parallel structure had been a key factor in the nomination of Ahmet Davutoglu as the next AK Party leader and prime minister,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was elected president on Aug. 10, told party members. By “parallel structure,” he was referring to those who are not loyalists of the ruling AKP.

As is evident from Erdogan’s remarks, the nomination of Davutoglu, who is expected to become prime minister later this month, is not based on his credentials as foreign minister, but his determination to battle the “parallel structure.”

Turkey had been cultivating friendly relations with its long-neglected eastern Arab neighbors when Davutoglu was appointed as foreign minister in 2009

Mahir Zeynalov

Davutoglu is one of the few AKP members not entitled to the party’s three-term rule. He can be elected twice, in 2015 and 2019. His record until the 2015 parliamentary elections will most likely be the most important factor if he is allowed by Erdogan to continue as party leader.

Legacy

Turkey had been cultivating friendly relations with its long-neglected eastern Arab neighbors when Davutoglu was appointed as foreign minister in 2009. It was a golden opportunity for him to display his capability as a negotiating partner. He could successfully assure Turkey’s neighbors that his country’s rise was peaceful.

He made more than 100 foreign visits in his first year in office, and was lauded as the most successful Turkish foreign minister to date. Ankara’s biggest strength was its ability to talk to every actor in the region. Davutoglu’s proactive foreign policy was working well during peacetime, then the Arab Spring blew in like a deadly wind.

Ankara’s “balanced” foreign policy initially forced Davutoglu to refrain from making comments on the uprising in Tunisia. His administration was heavily criticized for being slow to take sides.

On Egypt, Erdogan was right to call on then-President Hosni Mubarak to leave. Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad were Erdogan’s good friends, so it took some time for Davutoglu and Erdogan to dump Qaddafi and take an appropriate stance on the Syrian crisis.

Taking it personally

Davutoglu is accused of being too idealistic, rather than realistic. He flip-flopped on Qaddafi and dumped Assad too early because he took things too personally. He thought Qaddafi and Assad would listen to Turkey and adopt a course correction to avoid the mass upheavals that brought down regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

He met with Assad for six hours in Damascus on Aug. 9, 2011, and made a preliminary deal with the Syrian president. He felt personally insulted when Assad resumed bombing rebel positions. Taking it personally opened the gates to unceasing confrontation with Syria.

Turkey supported any militant groups in Syria that were fighting Assad, and told Washington that its listing of Al-Nusra Front as a terrorist group was badly timed. With Assad on the offensive, it seems Davutoglu’s Syria policy is going nowhere.

Accountability

The promotion of Davutoglu as a successor to Erdogan is a clear indication that the mechanism of accountability does not work in Turkey. For example, Susan Rice, who is now White House national security adviser, had to withdraw her bid to become secretary of state after she made a gaffe on the killings of Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

In the course of five years, Davutoglu has said at least 15 times that “no one should test our resolve,” regarding incidents such as Israel’s attack on the Turkish Mavi Marmara vessel, Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet, and the taking of Turkish hostages in Mosul, Iraq. In none of these cases was there a clear victory for Ankara.

A day before the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took Turkish diplomats and special forces hostage, Davutoglu assured the Turkish public that every security measure had been taken, and that the Turkish consulate in Mosul was safe. Since then, he has not apologized or offered a feasible explanation. Unable to rescue Turkish citizens from Mosul for over 80 days, instead of offering to resign, Davutoglu was happy to be promoted.

I believe that his clear failure over foreign policy indicates that he could simply be a puppet prime minister under Erdogan.

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Mahir Zeynalov is a journalist with Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov

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