Turkey is busy electing a president. Will Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
climb the stairs to become the first popularly elected president of the country; or will Ekmelettin İhsanoğlu, the former Islamic Development Organization (ISO) secretary-general and joint candidate of the two parliamentary opposition parties make a surprise and become the president? What about the Kurdish votes? Selahattin Demirtaş is claimed to be heading toward an unprecedented 10 percent popularity. If so, and if there is a second round, the Kurdish vote will most probably determine the identity of the next president.
Will the prime minister become a candidate? Fortune telling has become the second job of analysts, journalists, politicians as the premier has been busy fooling everyone every day. One day, he speaks in a fashion making everyone believe he has made up his mind and most probably would ask his Medvedev, pardon Abdullah Gül, to run a second term, the other day, he bashes Gül at a party meeting making everyone believe “Yeah, he [Erdoğan] is running.”
Indeed, this is the last chance for Erdoğan to become president and Emine Hanım the first lady – and leave behind in protocol Gül’s wife Hayrinüsa Hanım. What’s the color of relations between the wives of the top two Turkish politicians, whether they are exchanging “house visits” or not might appear to be trivial details for outsiders, but semantics, symbolism and emotions have always been of existential importance in Turkish politics. The “arrow of time,” as is said, indicates that irrespective how strong the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) might appear or perceived to be nowadays, indeed it has been on the way out for some time and if Erdoğan misses this last chance, either for health reasons, or because of the health of his party, he might not have another chance. Thus, if the premier announces at July 1’s parliamentary group meeting that he has decided not to promote “another friend” this time, but to run for presidency himself, that should not be a surprise. After all, most of the eminent personalities of the ruling Islamist gang have been stressing for that route for some time.
On the other hand, Erdoğan has failed in his repeated attempts over the past few years to get a new Constitution written, or at least the current social charter substantially amended to allow presidential governance, or at least allow for the president to maintain his political party links. If he becomes president at a time when the AKP has been losing blood anyway, the process of the demise of the ruling party might be accelerated. If he cannot be a president with party affiliation – under the current framework he cannot – he cannot intervene “all of the time and forever” in the AKP’s inner workings.
That is, even if he might have full “remote control” over the AKP for some time, soon some people after becoming accustomed to power might lead the AKP to walk its own separate way. If no previous “politician” president managed to control their former parties through proxy leaders or second grade successors, is there any guarantee that Erdoğan will manage to be the president, de facto premier, party leader, sole decision maker on every matter and the absolute ruler all of the time? Will he be able to carry the government and top bureaucracy together with him to that new “white house,” built in violation of court rulings on Atatürk’s farm?
Erdoğan’s immediate prime concern must be who will succeed him as premier and party leader. Under whose leadership can the AKP be carried safely and without a crisis in the country, to the next parliamentary elections in 11 months’ time? If none of the old guard, that is those who have completed three terms in Parliament, are not able to seek re-election, then to which newcomer to politics will the AKP be entrusted? Since Gül has built himself a new house in Istanbul and declared he has no intention of becoming Erdoğan’s Medvedev, should the prime minister get himself elevated to presidency, the AKP might face a bleak future, with or without an economic crisis, which many economists have been warning for some time.
There are difficult times ahead, not only for Erdoğan…