SEMİH İDİZ > A thorny rose for Erdoğan

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It is not a matter of speculation anymore whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has his eyes set on the presidency, which he clearly wants to turn into an elected executive office by 2014, when President Abdullah Gül’s term in office ends.

Erdoğan believes that such a system is best for Turkey. His argument, and that of his close advisers, is that this system will ensure stability in a country rife with debilitating political factionalism. When asked if the system being proposed is akin to the U.S. or French ones, on the other hand, Erdoğan responds that it will be a Turkish system based on Turkey’s specific needs.

The problem begins here. By indicating that an executive presidency will expedite the implementation of political decisions and by suggesting that the model to emerge will be a “specifically Turkish model,” those who support Erdoğan’s quest are, in effect, pointing at a presidency unencumbered by checks and balances.

The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) narrative on this topic in fact has no indication as to who will control the president once Turkey’s system is changed in this radical way. Erdoğan’s total lack of tolerance for any opposition or criticism, when combined with his increasingly apparent authoritarian tendencies, inevitably leaves many Turks concerned about what an executive presidency under him will mean in real terms.

Judging by certain press reports there are even senior members of the AKP who are not totally enamored with the idea of the kind of system Erdoğan and his advisers want. This is where President Gül comes into the picture in a way that must be deeply irritating for Erdoğan.

The problem for Erdoğan is that Gül is opposed to the idea of an executive presidency. He has suggested in the past, when the topic was not upfront on the agenda as it is today, that Turkey should try and improve its present system by raising the standard of democracy, rather than engaging in political adventurism by moving into uncharted waters.

The fact that Gül is increasingly stressing the need for advanced democracy for Turkey based on European standards is also telling as at a time when Erdoğan is bringing his own democratic credentials increasingly under scrutiny. His advocacy of capital punishment is just the latest case in point.

Gül’s remarks are also leading many people to believe that he will not simply step aside in 2014. He is too young and too politically engaged to do this while others move ahead. Those close to Erdoğan now are actively worried that Gül will put himself up for the job again and run in the presidential elections in 2014.

If Gül does this it will pose a serious obstacle for Erdoğan, since even polls conducted by companies considered close to the AKP are indicating that the public would prefer to see Gül as president. There is also the risk for Erdoğan that any constitutional change aimed at facilitating the emergence of an executive presidency in Turkey will be opposed by Gül with the powers he already has.

As matters stand Gül is on record using words which indicate that a new Constitution should be supported by all elements of society, and not just a specific party or social group. This is akin to saying no to an executive presidency model for Turkey given that there is no party other than the AKP that supports this.

There is still time until 2014 for new and unexpected developments to occur. The point, however, is that Erdoğan sees now that the rose he is reaching for has thorns. There is the possibility that he could very well end up becoming president under the present system, while Gül goes on to become a strong and truly democratic prime minister.

This is Turkey, where anything is possible.


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Notice on comments

Faruk Timuroglu

11/17/2012 2:02:44 AM

Very good analysis Mr. Idiz. I am glad to be able to continue reading your writings here in HD. The President Gül cannot and should not let Erdogan harm his country so badly. Also, as you pointed out, other people in AKP are against Erdogan’s whims of becoming a sultan. I believe Erdogan’s chances are nil to get what he yearns for. As he sees growing obstacles, he gets infuriated and blunders more. Nevertheless, it’s sad expecting a savior from AKP rather than from a strong opposition party.

Hakan Salci

11/16/2012 5:27:50 PM

What is the problem here? If Erdogan has a problem he should just past it on to his 'Gestapo' service and Gul will be taken out of the picture, simple as that. Surely there is a case that Gul can be tied up with; lets see, Ergenekon..no that won't do as it involves coups, the ODA TV case...no again that involves innocent journalists...SledgeHammer, again that has military figures in it, though as head of the Armed Forces I'm sure a link can be found to Gul. What about Deniz Feneri? Thats it!

Red Tail

11/16/2012 12:12:44 PM

The period since the last election has been far from as succesful as the previous ones. Our foreign policies have been a disaster, EU negotiations have ended, democracy improvements have stopped and terrorism has gone up. To give Mr Erdogan, who has already displayed dictatorial tendencies over the last five years, addiotional power will not be good for Turkey. We did considerably better when Mr Gul was closer to him and was able to calm him down. Without that I dont know where we are heading.

dogan kemal ileri

11/16/2012 9:19:03 AM

Abdullah Gul should go on to become a strong and democratic prime minister and I am sure the majority of the electorate would wish for this option.Irrespective of EU membership we should continue with our reforms to transform Turkiye into a world standards democracy which Gul would deliver upon whilst Erdogan has already proven himself to be reform tired.

Johnny Turk

11/16/2012 7:56:59 AM

If Turkey becomes a federal system, then this will be the start of the break-up of Turkey. This has been Erdogan's middle east project from the start. Very sad that the majority of his supporters don't do their own research and are easily manipulated by the AKP. Will Erdogan also bring back the Sultanate as a figure head for Turkey like the queen of England? No doubt he would want to be the Sultan and self proclaim that he is also the caliph. Sad days ahead for Turkey.

joe Maddin

11/16/2012 3:46:57 AM

In 2014, Erdogan's plotting and megalomania will cost him his political future, unless he gets rid of Gul.
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