Turkey's governing AKP tamed the army, castrated the media and dominated the judiciary, but is it cracking against a football club? Fenerbahçe President Aziz Yıldırım, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and the club's best footballer Alex de Souza in the good old days...
Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been governing the country since 2002, has finally "cracked," according to many observers.
With the "crack", a deep rift between the leading figures of the party is meant...
I am not sure if the current tension inside the party will have long-lasting effects, but the process is worth attention, indeed.
As Milliyet columnist Kadri Gürsel has cleverly pointed out today, the government has challenged the army and the media in recent years. Both of these challenges were concluded by the decisive victory of the government. The political role of the army as a guardian of the secular Republic was finished and the free media was transformed into a mouthpiece of the government.
After sharing the bounties from these two fronts, AKP recently turned its attention to another venture of billions of dollars: Football. Nonetheless, the match-fixing probe, which started in July and tended to be conducted through dubious legal methods similar to the ones used in Ergenekon case, seems like a harder nut to crack for the government.
After all, among the arrested is the president of Turkey’s reigning football champions Fenerbahçe, Aziz Yıldırım, who is also a very important businessman, operating in construction and the arms trade. Fenerbahçe is still behind Yıldırım, maintaining his innocence, as the club is threatened to be relegated because of allegations.
As the so-called Republic of Fenerbahçe, which traditionally boasts about having over 25 million passionate fans, threatened to vote against AKP in the next elections, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan backpedaled in a rarely seen move. The Turkish parliament came up with a surprising and unprecedented cross-party compromise and immediately ratified the legal arrangement to abolish the "disproportionately" heavy sentences for match-fixing.
However, President Abdullah Gül took another unexpected step to veto the bill last week, warning that it looked like it was tailor-made to save Aziz Yıldırım. Even more dramatically, Prime Minister Erdoğan stood by the bill and sent it back to the President, his long-standing comrade whom he had a Putin-Medvedev style relationship with. Legally, Gül has no option but to ratify the bill now.
The issue doesn't mean that AKP has been split. On the other hand, even some leading AKP figures admit that there is something wrong with the current situation. Is Gül playing for the leadership of the party while he is approaching the end of his term? Will Erdoğan insist to keep AKP as his one-man-company, even when there are speculations about his health?
Gül visited Erdoğan at his home today and I believe that only these two politicians can answer these questions now. Hence, other leading figures in the party should already be considering the prospective positions to take if the "crack" becomes apparent. I observe that only Bülent Arınç, the number-three of AKP, has given some clues so far, signalling that he would take the side of Gül against Erdoğan. But what about others? And how will millions of Fenerbahçe fans vote in the next elections?