The reason for Gül’s radio silence
Perhaps you have seen the video footage of President Abdullah Gül’s efforts to calm down Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, as he sat next to him and held his hand while Erdoğan was interrupting the speech of Turkish Bars Association head Metin Feyzioğlu, during a conference marking the 148th anniversary of the Council of State (Danıştay) on May 10. After that, Gül held onto Erdoğan’s arm to convince him to sit down for a few more minutes, as Erdoğan stood up and took two steps toward the stand on the podium where Feyzioğlu was trying to complete his speech.
Gül could not do it. Erdoğan, accusing Feyzioğlu of being “rude” for extending his speech for too long and making political remarks, walked out. In order not to leave his long-time fellow alone, and as he was not in a position to be ignored as the state president, Gül also had to leave the conference room together with the PM.
Almost an hour after the Danıştay incident, people from the Presidential Palace called a number of columnists and senior journalists who had unofficially been told weeks before to leave their schedules open for May 15-21, as there was a possibility that they could be invited onboard Gül’s plane to China, the last trip abroad during his time as president.
Gül did not want to be in a position to not be able to answer questions from senior journalists about issues on which Erdoğan could say something else the next day.
On May 12, yesterday, Gül had two public programs. One of them was the delivery of the first A-400 “Atlas” transport plane to the Turkish Air Force. Turkey is the co-manufacturer of NATO’s new generation super transporter, and Gül said nothing other than about the upgrading of Turkish military capabilities, and took no questions from journalists. Similarly, no questions were taken during the joint press conference (or statement in this case) with Bosnian President Bakir Izzetbegovic.
It seems that Gül will keep his radio silence on political issues, especially on the presidency, until Erdoğan reveals his decision.
Actually, Erdoğan’s decision is pretty clear already. He wants to be the presidential candidate for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and he is pretty sure that he is going to win, but he doesn’t want to announce it before his designs for a post-Erdoğan AK Parti is complete.
A low profile prime minister, to act almost as a Cabinet coordinator and a similar leader for the AK Parti who wouldn’t do anything without his approval, are Erdoğan’s choices. But Gül has already announced in public – perhaps that was his last political statement regarding the presidential elections in August – that he was not going to be that low profile PM who would in practice transfer his powers to the president.
However, Erdoğan is not yet 100 percent sure that if Gül does step aside as he has vowed, the AK Parti will be able to stay as firm and united for the coming parliamentary elections. That is the design Erdoğan is still working on. In order to not interfere, Gül has gone into radio silence mode.