Hakan Fidan and his baffling resignation

Less than four months before the parliamentary elections, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), intoxicated with power, has been given a new dimension.

That President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — the de facto leader of the party — is now determined to finalize its new identity, structure and roadmap is no secret. Utterly insensitive to the growing disconnect between what his opponents see as the murky legacy of power abuses he has committed on the path to his throne and his dream to cement the grounds for one-man rule, Erdoğan is in a mood to intervene in the AKP’s actions on a daily basis.

This disconnect has whetted the appetite of government bureaucrats for further intervention in the party. Some from the well-known “old establishment” and others from the new breed of recruits Erdoğan has gathered around him instinctively understand that he needs bureaucratic support based on absolute loyalty. In return, these bureaucrats will get further privileges such as being elected as deputies in the new Parliament, lucrative salaries and comfortable retirement plans.

In other words, the old habits of “representative” politics in Turkey never die. In reaction to Erdoğan’s continuous shift since 2011, the AKP is entering a phase that signals some turmoil and whose magnitude to me is yet unknown in order to embrace its new identity as the “party of the state.”

After a 12-year cycle, the AKP is now the new establishment.

The news of Hakan Fidan’s resignation from his post as head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) is the party’s most significant move so far in this context. Fidan has not been involved with the AKP structure throughout his career. What made him important was his role as Erdoğan’s confidante, which placed him at the center of dramatic changes when Turkey’s fragmented intelligence-gathering structures were centralized in late 2011.

This has made Fidan arguably the most powerful bureaucrat in Turkey. His relations with the president are said to be perfect. If he enters the political arena — of which there should be little doubt — he will have an even more powerful role in the future architecture of what Erdoğan calls the “New Turkey.”

Erdoğan’s statement declaring his disapproval of the resignation should be taken with a grain of salt. It is an open secret that no such move — as the resignation undoubtedly marks a tectonic shift — would take place without his consent.

The more important question is what is at stake for Fidan in active politics. The main opposition claims that he strives for immunity from prosecution for all the wrongdoings he committed during his tenure as the top intelligence official — the Uludere/Roboski massacre of 34 Kurdish villagers in late 2011 is often mentioned — but this claim falls short upon analysis.

Fidan has been a key figure in the Kurdish peace process and is seen as its de facto chief negotiator. He also allegedly gained the trust of Abdullah Öcalan, his “counterpart” in the negotiations.

So it would be fair to expect that the role given to Fidan would continue his involvement in the Kurdish peace process, at least to keep the cease-fire intact and Kurdish anger at bay. He may need immunity for the future, as well as for his actions in the past.

Some speculate that Fidan will not only be in charge of the “peace talks” but also the entire Cabinet. This raises a bigger question mark than imagined, because current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu certainly will not go quietly if the AKP achieves another sweeping victory in the June 2015 elections.

There are, then, two reasonable options for Fidan. He may be appointed “super” interior minister. In this role he would have control over the entire security and intelligence apparatus, becoming a sort of “homeland security tsar” and possibly reporting directly to Erdoğan.

Another option: If Erdoğan’s envisaged presidential system includes a model based on a vice president(s) chosen from the elected deputies, Fidan surely fits the description.

Speculations will continue as many other bureaucrats resign from their posts in pursuit of glory. But parachuting new people into the AKP will inevitably change its identity from whatever remains of its early, genuine policymaking between 2002 and 2010.

How all those who helped build the AKP will react to this final “verticalization” is, to me, the most interesting part of the story.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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