Erdogan Warned as Turkey’s Ruling Party Frustration Exposed

Frustrations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to maintain his dominance over politics bubbled to the surface, as a co-founder of the ruling AK party warned him against meddling in the government’s work.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc criticized Erdogan twice over the weekend, signaling tensions among long-term political allies ahead of parliamentary elections in June. Erdogan has been lobbying to install a presidential system in Turkey, reducing or possibly eliminating parliament’s authority.

“The apparent power struggle between an elected president and an elected government moved to a new level,” Mert Ulker, head of research at Ak Investment in Istanbul, said in an e-mailed report on Monday. “The AKP government is apparently not moving in harmony with the president, calling to mind a conflicts-of-interest aspect which will likely keep the political risk premium elevated.”

Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek, a member of the AK party, said Arinc was attacking Erdogan under orders from a “parallel structure.” The reference was to followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who officials say are trying to undermine the government from within. Gokcek, in more than 30 tweets to almost 2.5 million followers, said Arinc should resign as deputy prime minister and government spokesman. “We don’t want you,” he tweeted.

Arinc told reporters it was inappropriate for Erdogan to use the media to criticize government efforts to make peace with the nation’s Kurds.

‘Worthy Service’

“We love our president, we know his strength and we’re aware of his worthy service to the nation,” Arinc said. “But don’t forget that this country has a government and this government will go to elections.” He dismissed Erdogan’s claims that he wasn’t aware of some of the steps the government has taken in the Kurdish process.

Arinc vowed to defend Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, head of the party and the government, against any threat to his image before June 7 general elections, and predicted he would lead the next government. Davutoglu hasn’t said whether he will support Erdogan’s declared goal to make the president Turkey’s top official instead of the prime minister. Erdogan became Turkey’s first directly elected president in August, after ruling as prime minister for 11 1/2 years.

Transition to a presidential system would require 367 votes for ratification in parliament or 330 votes to bring it to a popular referendum. AK currently has 312 seats.

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