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MURAT YETKİN > Erdoğan seems decided to replace Gül

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Sources in Ankara say it was an undisclosed poll, allegedly showing more than 52 percent of popular support for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to become the candidate for the presidential elections, as the reason behind his decision to go for it. It is still not official yet, but all indications from yesterday showed the chances of him asking President Abdullah Gül to continue for a second term are getting smaller and his determination to replace him dominates. Here are those indications:

* On June 22, Erdoğan said he was inclined to wait until July 3, the deadline to submit candidate names to the Supreme Election Board (YSK), to announce the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Parti) presidential candidate. He also added that he wanted to see the opposition candidate(s) become official first. But on June 24, he said the party was going to announce its candidate July 1. That will not be in a party building, but in a congress hall with all of the MPs, party officials and provincial chiefs from across the country invited. Erdoğan would not make such a preparation for someone else; most probably his candidacy will be announced there by Mehmet Ali Şahin, the first deputy of the AK Parti, who is among the candidates to replace him as prime minister, if Erdoğan is elected president.

* In his address to AK Parti MPs on June 3, Erdoğan said the issue of a congratulatory message for the election of Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the coup leader of July 3, 2013, from the president was “unacceptable” for him. By doing that, he was indirectly aiming at President Gül’s message, without saying his name. It was a clear message to underline that there are some political discrepancies between the way that the two old fellows look at the state affairs.

* In the same speech, he reiterated his position that he was going to use “all of the presidential powers,” which is translated into daily language as meaning that he would not hesitate to convene the Cabinet at will and get involved in the government’s affairs. That is based on an article of the Constitution written during the military regime after the 1980 coup, but it has not been attempted to be used by even the coup leader General Kenan Evren, in order not to prompt a conflict of state powers. It is also known that a similar remark in April had led Gül to say he would not step into the PM and party leader position under Erdoğan’s shadow; preferring instead to step down from politics.
It is most likely that Erdoğan’s former statement about waiting for the opposition candidate to become official is no longer valid. If there are no last minute developments forcing him to change his mind, he will put, in effect, his will forward to be the next president after Gül.

If the undisclosed poll that he had carried out proves right, Erdoğan could be elected in the first round of elections on Aug. 10. If not, if he gets less than 50 percent, he would force everything possible, including the Kurdish card, to win the Aug. 24 round, with strong whispers in Ankara’s corridors that he might as well play that card even before the first round in order to secure the chair in the Presidential Palace on top of Çankaya Hill in the Turkish capital.

What will happen to Gül and the future of the party is a totally different story, but it will probably become clear after a final talk between the two; most likely before July 1.

June/25/2014

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