Erdoğan may turn to Pelican group to deal with ruling party rivals

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could turn once again to a clique of media figures to deal with opponents within his Justice and Development Party (AKP), the same figures who forced Ahmet Davutoğlu to resign as prime minister in 2016, columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote for the Hürriyet newspaper on Tuesday.

Davutoğlu, who had served as Turkey’s foreign minister since 2009, was named as prime minister when Erdoğan moved to the presidency in 2014, and he led the AKP to election success in November 2015. But he reportedly fell foul of the president by attempting to act independently.

This conflict was brought to light in an anonymous list released on social media that detailed 27 disagreements between the president and prime minister.

The document was given the name “the Pelican file”, and attributed to a group that became known as “Pelicanists”. The Pelicanists are said to be linked to Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, and are believed to operate through Sabah newspaper, the government-linked think tank SETA, and another think tank called Bosphorus Global.

After the ruling party’s loss of Istanbul in the March 31 local election, it is widely believed that the group pushed hard for a rerun of the vote. Figures associated with the group were among the loudest voices accusing the opposition of committing fraud during the first poll.

With senior AKP figures including Davutoğlu, former minister Ali Babacan and former president Abdullah Gül said to be planning the launch of a political party to rival the AKP, Erdoğan’s visit to Bosphorus Global last week was significant, Selvi said.

The think tank said Erdoğan had discussed its projects, which include social media accounts that aim to refute false information spread online about Turkey, and its international activities.

But, Selvi said, his presence there could well be a sign that he intends to employ the same kind of aggressive media campaign that sidelined Davutoğlu in 2016.