The curfew in Turkish cities, ordered at extremely short notice, has led to the barely concealed dispute between President Erdogan and his interior minister. This is piquant because Soylu is considered a possible successor.
In Turkey, lockdown chaos in some cities leads to political power struggles. In addition to the sharp, sometimes even devastating criticism of the opposition parties about the management of the two-day curfew, disagreements are now emerging in the government itself. For example, between the head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his powerful interior minister Suleyman Soylu: The minister had offered to resign on Sunday night because the government’s short-term and unexpected 48-hour lockdown in large cities at times led to mass crowds in front of supermarkets and bakeries as well as panic buying on Friday night would have. All the rules of social distance that the government had suggested to the Turks for weeks were broken.
President Erdogan refused to resign his police minister on Sunday evening, however, because this step was “inappropriate”, the President’s communications office said. Soylu’s efforts in combating terror were emphasized. Soylu himself had previously assumed full political responsibility for the chaos in just under three hours between the announcement and the start of the curfew. “I’m leaving my office of interior minister, which I proudly carried out,” he wrote on Twitter. He asked the Turkish people and Erdogan “whom I will be loyal to the end of my life for forgiveness”.
The president calls for donations. The opposition, therefore, believes that the household lacks money
Despite this declaration of allegiance, it appears to be obvious that there must have been at least disagreements between the President and the Minister regarding the type and implementation of the curfew. Erdogan had played down the risk of coronavirus-induced lung disease for a long time – “No virus is stronger than Turkey” – and later tried to control the corona fight by appealing to the common sense. Until Saturday there were curfews only for the elderly and the sick as well as for under 20-year-olds, a mask requirement was only given late.
Obviously, given Turkey’s difficult economic situation, Erdogan wants to avoid anything that could lead to an economic collapse. At the same time, he had called on the population to donate and, according to the opposition, had shown that there was no money in the state budget for effective anti-corona measures.
Parts of the Turkish medical profession had also declared that the country-wide corona infection and above all the infection rate in the 16 million metropolis of Istanbul was very advanced. Furthermore, far too little is tested. The corona figures published by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca distorted reality. Experts are now assuming an unusually rapid spread of the coronavirus in the country as a result of the government’s failures.
The way the curfew itself is unlikely to have corresponded to Soylu’s ideas. As if he wanted to distance himself from the form and implementation, the minister had announced when the lockdown was announced that the president himself had ordered it. The Home Secretary is a classic law-and-order man who tries to prevent any kind of protest, let alone riot, and makes no concessions.
He owes his reputation to his actions after the failed coup attempt in 2016 when a very large number of possible suspects were arrested and thousands of opposition figures, civil society activists and media professionals were tried under largely dubious allegations.
The public back and forth about Soylu’s resignation offer gains in importance because the police minister is treated as a possible successor to the now 66-year-old Erdogan. Soylu belongs to the Erdogan party AKP. But his profile is different from that of the head of state. Despite his membership in the Islamic AKP, Soylu is more secular and more nationalist than Erdogan. He is popular with parts of the population because of his tough stance against the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
So you could therefore also find a wide following outside the AKP. After declaring his resignation, citizens had asked President Erdogan to reject the request via social media. In Soylu’s hometown of Rize, a resident is said to have even publicly threatened to commit suicide if the minister really should give up his post.
Even if the head of state has so far shown no signs of being tired of office, others are also coming into play for a possible successor, such as Erdogan’s son-in-law, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak. It is not known whether the President approves of this: Albayrak is regarded as a less competent finance minister. Unlike Erdogan and Soylu, he belongs to a modern, technocratic, urban wing of the AKP.