Gonul Tol comments on growing signs of a rift between allies Erdogan and Bahceli

Gonul Tol is Director of Middle East Institute’s Turkish Program and the Author of Erdoğan’s War: A Strongman’s Struggle at Home and in Syria, whose expertise in Turkish politics is internationally praised.  Her Tuesday thread in X, formerly Twitter is shedding light on the very public and widening rift between President Erdogan and his nationalist ally Devlet Bahceli.


The signs of rift are hard to detect by Western media radars, because it is highly laden with symbolism and maneuvers peculiar to Turkish politics.

For instance, the rift reverberated in the election for a new chief justice for the Court of Cassation, on which Tol comments:

Erdogan wanted to keep the current head of Court of Cassation, who had confirmed Kavala’s aggravated life sentence. But members of the Court saw Erdogan’s effort as “political interference” and elected a new head. We are not there yet but this makes me think of elite defection.

She is right, but it is worth noting  that one of candidates associated with MHP withdrew from the contest, possibly as a gesture by Bahceli to repair relations. Yet, perhaps as  sign of some members retaining some measure of autonomy from political leaders the new chief justice is conservative but was not endorsed by AKP or MHP.

Tol expands her elite defections thesis as manifested in the previous paragraph: “A similar dynamic played out before last year’s elections when the mood for an Erdogan loss was strong. According to research, elite defections in autocracies happen more often during economic downturn and discontent of other regime elites and voters is high.


This too is right.  The-then main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, also the joint candidate of six opposition parties bragged that his office was getting pledges of loyalty and very high level intelligence from the bureaucracy, trying to prove their usefully to the opposition, in case Erdogan were to lose.


A second flashpoint of AKP-MHP rift is the political prisoner Osman Kavala, accused of financing the Gezi protests in 2012, though he has been declared by ECofHR. Recently, pro-AKP columnists and even an important Congressman, Tugrul Turkes suggested there is no benefit from keeping him in prison, because it poisons the relations with Council of Europe and EU.

According to Tol, as confirmed by the Turkish press, Turkey will appoint a new panel of judges to hear rights defender #OsmanKavala’s retrial petition. The move comes after ruling AKP’s recent election loss and Erdogan’s declaration of “period of detente” following the vote.

The ruling bloc, however, is not on the same page, with Erdogan’s close ally nationalist MHP leader and some of Erdogan’s close advisors opposing his release. If Kavala’s retrial petition gets accepted, it will mean the “let’s pretend there is rule of law in Turkey so we can attract Western investment” camp will have won.

Let’s  hope this crowd wins because Kavala and others’ rights have been gravely violated in these sham/politically motivated trials, says Tol.


Follow our  English language YouTube videos  @ REAL TURKEY:   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKpFJB4GFiNkhmpVZQ_d9Rg

And content at Twitter: @AtillaEng

Facebook:  Real Turkey Channel:   https://www.facebook.com/realturkeychannel/



Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.