It was a few hours after the New Welfare Party (Yeniden Refah Partisi) leader Fatih Erbakan announced that his political-islamist party refused to endorse the ruling People’s Alliance in the elections after meetings with President Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials. Erbakan not only refused to support, but also announced his candidacy for the presidency against President Tayyip Erdoğan.
The AKP had to do something. They must have thought that if Mehmet Şimşek, the former Treasury Minister who had previously rejected Erdoğan’s offer to rejoin the cabinet, had joined the AKP on such a day, it would have guaranteed headlines and TV screens on March 21 – at least in the government-controlled media.
Moreover, Mehmet Simsek was a well-known figure in Western capital circles, who was already doing business in London, Dubai and similar financial circles. In this way, just as Finland was allowed to return to NATO, Erdoğan would have proven what a Western-friendly leader he really is.
On the same day, March 20, just a few hours earlier, Erdoğan’s rival, the presidential candidate of the opposition’s Nation Alliance, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, had visited the Kurdish-issue focused People’s Democracy Party (HDP) at the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and left the meeting in an amicable atmosphere.
Hours after all these, the press was notified and the benches were prepared: Erdoğan was going to bring Şimşek back home.
Şimşek was supposed to come to the AKP headquarters and meet the president there. The fact that the meeting would take place at the party headquarters and not at the Presidency had a symbolic meaning. Şimşek, who had rejected to return several times before, would have returned at such a critical time.
He did not.
Erdoğan was unable to convince Şimşek to return to the AKP, to replace the supposedly successful Minister of Treasury and Finance Nureddin Nebati, and perhaps even to become the second Vice President in charge of the economy, partnering Fuat Oktay.
AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik announced that Şimşek had no plans to “return to active politics,” he said, adding “but he was ready to make any contribution.”
Şimşek posted a similar statement on his Twitter account, saying he was not considering it “due to his work in financial institutions abroad.” He had made a choice between being Erdoğan’s number two and his work in financial institutions abroad.
This is how Erdoğan experienced the second rejection in one day.
Or rejected thrice?
We do not yet know whether Erdoğan heard a third rejection on that day. Because in between, after the rejection of Erbakan, he had a meeting with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. Although they did not say it openly, the MHP was not happy with ultra-Islamist Hüda-Par’s declaration of support for the People’s Alliance.
Just before this meeting, MHP Deputy Chairman Semih Yalçın had reacted to Kılıçdaroğlu’s meeting with HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar as an “ugly bargain”. According to MHP supporters, Hüda-Par was also a Kurdish and anti-secularist party.
Therefore, Erdoğan may have received a third rejection on the same day, or may have turned back from the brink; we don’t know yet, but it will soon become clear whether Bahçeli had to accept Hüda-Par or not.
However, it is clear that Kılıçdaroğlu’s visit to HDP executives disturbed the AKP and MHP.
HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar explained why the meeting was held in the parliament and not at the HDP headquarters for the same reason: Parliament should be the place to solve all problems, “including the Kurdish problem.”
Kılıçdaroğlu reiterated the motto in the press conference afterwards.
“Congratulations” for what?
The emphasis that the solution to the Kurdish problem should be under the roof of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, not through the dialogue with the outlawed PKK via the Turkish National Intelligence Organization, MIT, was obviously going to be the ground that bridged the Millet Alliance and the Labor and Freedom alliance led by the HDP.
As a matter of fact, later on, Ali Babacan, the leader of the DEVA Party, supported the meeting with the same statement.
At the end of the meeting, journalists heard that both Buldan and Sancar bid farewell to Kılıçdaroğlu with the words “congratulations”.
What was this “congratulations” for on a day like this?
Was it for the agreement that was about to be settled, perhaps has already been settled, but that announcement was left for “1-2 days later”?
Or for Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy?
In both cases, the HDP was projecting a positive view of Kılıçdaroğlu as the presidential candidate of the opposition’s Nation Alliance. Among the other parties in the Labor and Freedom Alliance, TİP and EMEP were already in favor of supporting Kılıçdaroğlu to defeat Erdoğan in the election.
It has already been rumored for a few days that the HDP and its allies would indirectly support Kılıçdaroğlu by not running a candidate against him.
This could ease the hands of both the HDP administration against its base, Kılıçdaroğlu against IYI Party leader Meral Akşener, and Akşener against HDP objections in the IYI Party base.
As of yesterday, the tide seemed to have turned in favor of Kılıçdaroğlu. But anything can happen at any moment in the hourly changing balances of Ankara. Let’s wait and see.