A Democratic Trap for Hulusi Akar?
These days, people inside and outside Turkey are talking about the potential of Hulusi Akar, the Turkish Minister of Defense, to take over the long-held seat of President Erdogan. No, that is not going to be a coup d’état. The shrewd Hulusi Akar already passed the difficult test of democracy in July 2016. At that time, he was the Chief of General Staff, who heroically refused to participate in the failed coup attempt against Erdogan. The rumors, however, claim that Akar will run for the presidency in the coming elections of 2023, should Erdogan decide not to run.
Ironically, such rumors are initiated by the same analysts who previously claimed that Erdogan conspired with Hulusi Akar and Intelligence Chief, Hakan Fidan, to stage a fake coup in 2016. They are the same writers who claimed, in 2019 and 2020, that early presidential elections were to be held because the Turkish people could not wait for the 2023 schedule. However, none of their conspiracy theories turned out correct. That is simply because they are blinded by their overwhelming desire to see Erdogan out of power.
Adding the name of Hulusi Akar to their new rumor is merely the spice needed to make it go viral among the public audience. Last year, similar rumors spread when a Turkish journalist at an opposition website reported that Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which shares a powerful political duet with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), was pushing hard for positioning Hulusi Akar as the vice president of the state.
The rumors about Hulusi Akar replacing Erdogan sound pleasurable and comforting to the ears of many anti-Erdogan and anti-AKP observers. Yet, they seem too deceitful in the expert eye. Changing Erdogan, as a flat step, could be a turning point for the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, not only for Turkey. However, it is not going to happen any time soon. Erdogan is still the most popular politician in Turkey, and as long as he can run for election, he will continue to harvest the majority of votes.
On the flip side, Hulusi Akar becoming the president of Turkey sounds like a climax scene in a Shakespearean drama. It pleases the heart to imagine, but the mind refuses to believe. Hulusi Akar is much more than a clever and disciplined soldier who worked hard until he reached the top echelon of his career. Hulusi Akar is an exceptional military commander who, in the lifetime of one man, managed to create a legacy of diplomatic and military conquests that changed the dynamics of power in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, forever. The unique pairings of his personality, enhanced by a myriad of political and diplomatic skills, have enabled him to constantly progress throughout the path he created for himself and his country, regardless of the political orientation of the governments that he worked under. Imagine what he could do if he becomes a president of an important country like Turkey.
However, by giving the whole story a second thought, you will discover that these are only fantasies about the future that may never come. For Turkey to change its president from Erdogan to Akar, three things need to happen. First, Erdogan should willingly decide not to run in the upcoming presidential elections. Second, Akar should willingly decide to kill his glorious legacy as a military leader and immerse his name in the filthy mud of political competition. Third, the majority of voters should vote for Hulusi Akar, even though he may not act better than Erdogan regarding the state’s chronic economic mishaps.
Up till this moment, it does not seem that Erdogan or Akar or even the majority of the voters are willing to do any of that. Hulusi Akar is minding his own military business, while Erdogan is busy running state affairs and preparing for the next presidential elections. Earlier this month, Erdogan mentioned his desire to change the constitution in one of his public speeches. The experts interpreted this move as an attempt to increase his chances to win in the coming presidential elections. That does not sound like someone who is giving up his presidential seat to one of his ministers. Moreover, Erdogan and his Islamist AKP are still the most popular among the grassroots citizens, who represent the majority of the Turkish voters, compared to other allied or opposition parties and political blocs.
The funniest part, here, is that an American writer at the Foreign Policy magazine claimed that Erdogan is too sick and too old to run for the presidency, and thus the AKP will force him to sit aside and put Hulusi Akar in his place. This illogic argument, too, has nothing to do with the reality on the ground and is shamefully based on the rumors spread by random plebeian on Twitter. First of all, Hulusi Akar has never attached himself to a political party, and I do not think he will do in the future. A big part of his political strength comes from being independent of all parties, whether Islamist or secular. Second, if age and health is a barrier to the presidency, Joseph Biden, 78 years old, would not have become the president of the United States. Also, for the sake of comparison, Erdogan is younger than Hulusi Akar by two years and is younger than his closest ally Devlet Bahçeli by seven years.
That being said, Hulusi Akar needs to be very careful not to let his name be dragged into this muddy context for a long time. That does not only leave stains on his image and legacy as a one-of-kind military leader but also affects the reputation of the Turkish Armed Forces that he leads. When the time is right, Hulusi Akar should come out and declare to the public that he and the military are not part of this game. This is the best way to quickly pull himself out of this political trap disguised as a democratic debate. As an independent military leader, with a devout nationalist ideology, Hulusi Akar is already bigger and better than a political competition of that kind.
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