The AK Party is being redesigned by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in order to ensure his influence after his likely election to the presidency. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been busy organizing yet another party congress, which seems to have resulted in yet another reshuffle of the party's executive. I have lost track of how many times the CHP has renewed its senior party team.
While the AK Party has been aiming at solidifying its conservative character, it will also try to attract some centrist figures. Similarly, the CHP has been working at attracting some names from the center-right. Whatever the calculations are, it is clear that the two main contenders are aiming to prepare well for the major transformation that is likely to take place in 2014.
What is happening here? First, it is clear that Erdoğan wants to become a powerful president who can determine the future of this country. For this to happen, he needs to push through constitutional amendments that would make him a powerful president. This has not been on the menu of the Constitution Commission, which is tasked with finding a consensus among Turkey's political parties. While there is some progress in the commission's work, delicate matters remain untouched. Frankly, there is little hope in the public that a grand bargain can be reached there.
What I think is likely is that after some time the work of the commission will end up in deadlock and a new draft will be put forward by the AK Party. Whether that draft will include changes to the powers of the presidency is key. If it will, then the next question will be to pass it in Parliament. The AK Party has 325 votes in Parliament and thus needs at least five more voting in favor of such an amendment, assuming, of course, that all AK Party deputies support it. Currently, it seems unlikely to expect such support to come either from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) or the CHP, which only leaves the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). I do not know what the MHP officially thinks of a presidential system, but it seems to be the AK Party's only hope for obtaining some support.
Then there is the issue of current President Abdullah Gül. It is unclear how he views the current situation. He has certainly refrained from making public statements and is maintaining a robustly statesmanlike approach from the Çankaya presidential palace. Yet, he commands large support from Turkish society and is a rare figure who very few could challenge within the AK Party if he chose to come back. His time in office has seen a considerable increase in respect for the presidency and high approval ratings for himself. He does command support from large segments of society -- be they conservative or not.
Numan Kurtulmuş, the founder of the Voice of the People Party (HAS), seems to be intent on joining the AK Party, which has already stirred the party from the inside. This development is likely to add even more spice into the design of the party. What is happening on the MHP front is unclear to me and frankly it does not matter. The BDP on the other hand has announced it will use the month of Ramadan as a retreat and internally discuss recent developments. The Kurds also need to strategize given the eventful nature of politics on the Kurdish question.
Yet, the fundamental driver of the political scene is Prime Minister Erdoğan. He will determine the main setup on the conservative side. We will see in the coming months what he has in mind and how other actors will respond to that.