Zeynep Gürcanlı / Nuray Babacan / Turan Yılmaz
ANKARA / Hürriyet
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan convened with his Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers at his party's headquarters in Ankara, April 16. AA Photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has told his lawmakers that he is still undecided as to whether he will pursue the presidency, but he vowed to use the full powers given by the Constitution if he is elected president in the popular vote, scheduled for August.
Erdoğan convened with his lawmakers April 16 in a meeting that provided a good opportunity for the prime minister to take the pulse of his parliamentary group in his bid to shape a road map for the August presidential elections.
“If I step into the [Çankaya Presidential Palace], I will be the people’s President. I will use my full constitutional competences,” Erdoğan was reportedly told his lawmakers at a meeting at the Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters, as debates about the transition into a semi-presidential or presidential system is still ongoing.
Erdoğan argued that the President would de facto become the executive office for being elected by a popular vote. “The system has changed. There won’t be any interregnum, because that would be the executive office. Meanwhile, we have many friends that could become Prime Minister,” Erdoğan said, while urging his charges not to speculate on the party’s candidate.
“I have not made my decision yet. And I do not approve of pronouncing names [for the presidential bid] at this point. There will be no flood after me or with me. The most important thing is the institutional structure of our party,” Erdoğan. The meeting took place under strict security measures as no ministers and lawmakers were permitted to bring cell phones inside to prevent an illegal recording of the talks.
At the outset of the meeting, a questionnaire asking three questions was distributed to the lawmakers.
The first question was “Who do you want to see as president?” followed by “What are your thoughts about the three-term rule?” and a third asking for the lawmakers’ general opinion about current developments. The deputies filled in the questionnaire and returned it to party management without identifying their names on the form.
Following the completion of the survey, Erdoğan made an introductory statement in which he broadly expressed his views on the presidential elections. “In August, we will elect the next president through popular vote for the first time. I know you are curious about my views on this issue. But I have not made my decision yet,” he said. “We are going to make consultations.”
Recalling that the AKP had an institutional structure and will not be affected by changes in the leadership, Erdoğan urged his group not to make comments about the fate of the party based on potential names that could lead it.
“With or without me, there will be no flood. The main thing is not names but the institution. Making assessments based on personalities would be wrong. That would also violate the rules of our cause. This movement is not dependent on personalities. I am here today and will perhaps not be here tomorrow, but this walk was there before me and will be here after me. There will be no problem at the party after me.”
Erdoğan said his consultations would not be limited to his party fellows and that he would also talk to NGOs, decision-makers and other important groups to look into how social consensus could be built for the presidential elections.
“We talked about this issue with the president [Abdullah Gül], and we’ll continue to do so. We founded this party through consultations. We’ll even ask it to the kid on the street. That was the method we followed for the presidential elections in 2007. The opinions of the ordinary men on the street are equally important to me,” he said.
AKP MPs want Erdoğan as president
The prime minister also expressed his views on the three-term rule at the party to limit lawmakers’ mandates in Parliament to three consecutive terms. “Some fellows complain about it because it is not an easy task to become a statesman. They believe this rule could negatively affect the party. That’s why we are opening a debate about it,” he said.
At the meeting, 24 lawmakers took the floor and expressed their opinion about the presidential elections. Twenty of them openly expressed their desire to see Erdoğan as the next president, while the remaining four said Erdoğan should stay at the helm of the party for the future of the AKP and Turkey.
“While our hearts want to see you as the president, our logic tells us to let you stay as the prime minister,” one reportedly said. A witch hunt?
Erdoğan also conveyed his views about the “parallel structure” and the government’s approach toward what he calls the “illegal gang within the state” – the movement of Fethullah Gülen, the prime minister’s erstwhile ally.
“Our fight against the parallel structure will continue in the same way. This is not a witch hunt. But we are going to take necessary measures against those who do not obey their superiors but their brothers [from the parallel structure]. If you call this a witch hunt, then we’ll carry out a witch hunt,” he said.