I hadn't been visiting Ankara for some time now. I am here to watch the most important congress of late at location. The weather is cold, skies grey and expectations high. Every segment from the party to the media, from politics to the economy had an expectation, a desire for change as they were heading to the congress.
Vision presented in the slogan
The slogan the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) chose for the congress was designed in a way to express these expectations.
New breakthrough period: Democracy, transformation, reform.
Actually, the slogan itself contains a message and vision. The team that chose the slogan says they made this choice to reflect the expectation of the community and public on the ground. This way they would be further raising expectations.
I saw that this expectation was higher in Ankara and was awaited with greater curiosity.
Of course, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's return to the head of the party after a 998-day hiatus is also considered the end of a period that is seen as an “interregnum.” Naturally, when the leader returns, the view is that great transformation and breakthroughs prevail over all.
Disturbing incident that poisoned the congress process
I have to say that this expectation was a right and even more principal expectation. The only thing overshadowing this was a dirty campaign that was started on social media two days ahead of the congress. We witnessed an operation that was extremely atrocious, filled with slander and shocked and disturbed all with posts that directly targeted people personally, that targeted leaders within the party.
Hence, expectations that were ethical, principal and realpolitik were personalized and the atmosphere was poisoned.
By appointing almost all the targeted names to the council presidency, Erdoğan did not allow this operation of dirtying perceptions and negated the expectations of those with evil intentions.
'Safe ground, reliable team' strategy
An intense crowd had gathered both inside and outside the congress hall. The media, foreign mission chiefs and organizations were greatly interested.
The love and care for Binali Yıldırım, who had been running the party for the last year, was apparent both in Erdoğan's behavior and the cheering of the people who were there. He returned the trust to its owner with great maturity.
The administrative staff Erdoğan would choose and his speech were the two most important matters that would determine the kind of path he would draw for the AK Party, the kind of road map he would form.
There were those, who though the Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), would be a revolutionary staff. Yet, up until now, Erdoğan had never made a change of more than 40 percent in any of the MKYK and cabinet changes. I did not expect great change as he would evaluate the situation in terms of “safe ground, reliable team” during times in which the risk element is great.
However, I still expected a change in discourse and the cadre that would meet the expectations of the Kurdish electorate who had an impact on the fate of the referendum. It didn't happen. Despite this, Youth Branch head Melih Ecertaş who made it into the MKYK is quite pleased.
It should also be remembered that the current MKYK list was prepared a year ago by Yıldırım with Erdoğan's counsel; it is a team that went through Erdoğan. A one-year period is a short time for the radical change of such top-level administration bodies. Erdoğan always thinks that radical change would lead to instability and mismanagement. Yet, 19 names changed in the 50-member MKYK. This is roughly Erdoğan's classic golden ratio, 38 percent.
I guess, those who had high hopes, could not find the thrill they were seeking as they did not take these matters into consideration.
Long speech text
The second matter that drew attention at the congress was Erdoğan's speech. I think it was the longest speech text in recent days. It was a speech in which previous efforts were mentioned more and the already known rhetoric against terrorism, the coup and Turkey's enemies was stated rather than the clues of the new breakthrough period. Hence, there were those who left the hall halfway through the speech.
Messages on how expectations such as breakthrough, democracy, reform and transformation, which are reflected on the slogan, were given toward the end of the speech, yet with slightly ambiguous statements. Thus, the messages got slightly lost within the long speech. It probably would have been better if the AK Party's future vision was outlined with shorter and more compact and explicit sentences.
What will happen in the cabinet change?
Now, eyes have turned to the cabinet change. There are those who think the expected demand for change will find itself a place in the cabinet change and the program to be prepared for the new government.
I personally think the number of ministers to change will be at the 30 to 40 percent range, which I call the golden ratio. I don't think there will be a very radical change.
I believe the program and action planning, which Erdoğan mentioned at the congress as well, is the more important issue. Eventually, as always, Erdoğan will personally direct all these transformation and reform efforts.
However, the AK Party needs to think well how such a great expectation formed among the community and public and how the congress slogan, breakthrough (economy), democracy (freedoms), transformation (staff) and reform (bureaucracy) will be fulfilled.
These are also the critical subjects of the 2019 elections.