To the public, the resignation of Suleyman Soylu appears to be related to his shortcomings in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but to those digging deeper, the resignation of the interior minister – a prominent figure in the Justice and Development Party – tops a long chapter of conflict within the party, between a group led by the resigning minister, and another group led by the president's son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.
Turkish experts and observers did not seem surprised by Soylu's decision, as it seemed expected in light of President Erdogan's bias and continued support of his son-in-law, who continues to rise in the ranks of the party and the state. This is not unlike the despotism we have become familiar with in another country, where a political figure who lacks experience, skill and the necessary qualifications was also entrusted with a huge responsibility, but was also lucky enough to be the president's son-in-law – Jared Kushner.
Soylu's resignation is perhaps the most significant since the wave of resignations of founders and historical figures of the Justice and Development Party, such as Abdullah Gül, Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu. What distinguishes this resignation from the ones that preceded it, is that the person resigning this time was not one of the founders of the ruling party, but joined recently, after being among the most prominent opponents and critics.
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Before joining political Islam, Soylu was a symbol of Turkish nationalism, and one of the pillars of the deep state in the country. He was involved in targeting Erdogan and his party, until he decided to start fighting on the opposite front, turning into a spearhead in the hands of the party and the president, and became the most cruel and oppressive symbol of the ruling establishment.
Soylu's resignation was not received as good news by the president. Erdogan judged that it was not "appropriate" for Soylu to resign and that the minister would continue in his position, the presidency announced shortly afterwards.
Soylu's statement came just before the end of the weekend lockdown in 31 provinces across Turkey, including its largest city and commercial hub Istanbul, home to 16 million residents.
According to media sources, the resignation of Soylu does not necessarily mean that he will leave politics or the public arena. These sources suggest three possible scenarios: the first is where the dispute is settled, even if temporarily, pending a new round of conflict within the ruling party; the second would be for Soylu to establish a new party, relying on his broad range of supporters within the Justice and Development Party, and the third, for him to initiate negotiations to join the National Movement Party, the ruling party's ally, relying on the shared political and ideological views in the hopes that he would top the list of candidates for the succession of Devlet Bahçeli.
Soylu will continue the battle for the second position in the ruling party from within. If he loses this battle, then he will fight for being the second position in Turkey from outside the party, and perhaps from within the National Movement Party – providing partnership between the Justice and Development Party and the National Movement Party seems compulsory for both, to stand in the way of the secular Democratic Turkish opposition, which is growing stronger as the public are distancing further from the ruler.
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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.