Changes introduced to party management during this congress imply that the AK Party's reformist spirit will be revived. The ruling party intends to pass all intended European Union harmonization bills, but needs the main opposition Republican People's Party's (CHP) support for a new constitution. Even without the CHP's support, the ruling party will still try to pass constitutional amendments needed for the EU reform process and the Kurdish initiative.
A senior AK Party executive who wished to remain anonymous told Today's Zaman that the AK Party's reformist spirit will return in the new period.
“[By saying] our time has just arrived,” Prime Minister Erdoğan referred to a new start, the same executive said, adding that the EU harmonization process will return to the speed seen in 2003.
The AK Party had made great progress in the country's EU bid with nine harmonization packages prepared in 2003, but it is currently being criticized for moving at a snail's pace since 2007 with respect to EU reforms. All of the bills required for the harmonization process pending in Parliament are expected to be passed by 2011, the year when the next general election will be held.
These bills include the bill on the Turkish Commercial Code, the bill on the establishment and duties and powers of the Constitutional Court, the bill on political finance, the election bill, the ombudsman bill, the experts bill, the bill on mediation in legal disputes, the bill on external security services for prisons, the bill on assistance to victims of violence and the bill on the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges (HSYK). These bills are expected to be enacted by the end of 2010. The AK Party's parliamentary group management is already working on the schedule of enactments for these bills.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed party members during the ruling Justice and Development Party's third ordinary congress, held on Saturday.
Changes Prime Minister Erdoğan made to the Central Decision and Administration Board (MKYK) provide hints about the upcoming period. Erdoğan created party management structure that does not allow for disappointment or conflict among party members. The burden of managing the party will be shared between the parliamentary group management and the party administration. Thus the parliamentary group will be able to concentrate on parliamentary affairs.
More active party management
In this context, Bülent Arınç, Abdülkadir Aksu, Cemil Çiçek, Hüseyin Çelik, Salih Kapusuz and other senior politicians will play more active roles within the party. The senior AK Party executive Today's Zaman spoke with noted that during the Oct. 3 party congress, Prime Minister Erdoğan's leadership was not questioned in the least and argued that the fact that Deputy Chairman Arınç cutting into the speech of İdris Naim Şahin, who is known to be very close to Erdoğan, is indicative of the role Erdoğan tailors for senior politicians.
As the party management is reinforced, the parliamentary group's deputy chairmen will be able to concentrate on legislative work. They will no longer act as the party's spokesmen in case of daily political debates. Criticisms voiced or attacks made by other parties will be responded to by the party executives. Having found that the polemics the parliamentary group's deputy chairmen enter into with other parties tend to destroy the grounds for consensus, the AK Party intends to pave the way for greater consensus and dialogue among parties with this change.
Furthermore, the core staff of the party management will include figures capable of establishing and maintaining dialogue with other parties. In this context, Çelik, Kürşat Tüzmen and Salih Kapuz will assume important duties.
The 16-member Central Executive Board (MYK) will be set up from among members of the 50-member MKYK this week. In this new period, the AK Party's image seems to be built upon Arınç and Aksu. These two senior politicians will be Erdoğan's closest aides. Former Education Minister Çelik will act as deputy chairman in charge of media and promotion affairs while Suat Kınıklıoğlu is likely to be the deputy chairman in charge of foreign affairs. No extra duties will be given to Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is expected to be elected as the head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Ayşe Türkmenoğlu is likely to replace Nükhet Hotar in the party management. Former State Minister Tüzmen may replace Bülent Gedikli as the head of economic and social affairs.
The senior AK Party executive maintained that Prime Minister Erdoğan could not introduce the changes he desired during the party congress in 2006 because of the circumstances at the time and the presidential election, but that he can now go on with his plans.
The fact that Erdoğan left the congress hall before the results were declared is a sign of his trust in the party delegates, the same executive said.
EU reforms at full throttle
The senior AK Party executive underlined that Erdoğan will clear all obstacles blocking the country's EU bid and that if France and Germany maintain their objections to Turkey's membership, Erdoğan will pursue a foreign policy that will force the EU to make errors.
Having spoken harshly about the EU's attitude on the Cyprus issue, Erdoğan will attend EU meetings more frequently and push the country's efforts for full membership. If the process of full membership is blocked by the EU, Erdoğan will make more drastic moves to push the EU's hand.
The senior AK Party executive considers a new constitution an unlikely option in the new period, saying that without the CHP's backing, it would be virtually impossible to draft a new constitution, though small constitutional amendments needed for the Kurdish initiative and the EU harmonization process may be introduced in Parliament.
The same executive claimed that the CHP's attitude toward the Kurdish initiative will change in the coming days, arguing that CHP leader Deniz Baykal has until now satisfied sentiments within the party's voters base and that it would be inevitable for the two parties to cooperate for the initiative.