It’s battle time
Swords were sharpened. The first salvoes were fired. President Abdullah Gül declared his decision to return to his former Justice and Development Party (AKP) once his tenure in office ends on Aug. 28.
President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan swiftly fired back and top executives of the party immediately declared they fixed Aug. 27 as the convention date to elect a successor to Erdoğan as party leader and prime minister. Furthermore, they decided the prime minister and party leader “will be the same person.”
Since Gül cannot be a candidate for any duty in any political party while he is still the president and even after since he is not a parliamentarian and under the Constitution cannot be the next prime minister, it is obvious Erdoğan has sent him a strong message: You are definitely unwelcome in the party! But why did Gül said he will return to “my party,” of which he was not just one of the founders, but the first prime minister as well? From the beginning Gül, was ice-cool to the idea of playing the role of Medvedev to Erdoğan, serving as his spare tire. In 2002, things were different. Erdoğan was banned from politics at the time. Until the ban was lifted, Gül served as prime minister and then left the job to its “righteous owner.” But now, the era of Erdoğan is over and Gül is not someone to be remote-controlled by a president wishing to carry Prime Ministry executive powers to the presidency despite constitutional difficulties.
Thus, the audience of the Turkish political theater was provided immediately after the presidential vote an early rehearsal of the inevitable battle between Erdoğan and his “former” party. Can that battle be stopped or prevented? As long as Erdoğan has the ambition to become the sole legislator, executive and judge of the country, even if he can appoint a yes-man as the AKP leader and prime minister, that battle will eventually be fought. If the AKP can bring Gül in or anyone in similar caliber as its leader, then the AKP will survive as a strong political force, but Erdoğan will have some unsatisfied aspirations that may turn the presidential palace into a dungeon for him.
It is battle time in the AKP, but is it not so in the opposition parties as well? Election results showed that at least 4 million supporters of the two main opposition parties shied away from the ballot boxes and indeed because of them staying away Erdoğan scored an easy victory in the first run. Why did they stay away? Primarily for social democrats, the “roof candidate” Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu was too conservative and religious to vote for. For the nationalist opposition, İhsanoğlu was not nationalist enough. Now the leaders of both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) claim they were right in their decision and would nominate İhsanoğlu again if elections were to be repeated. Wrong! Particularly among social democrats, there is an expectation of a declaration of assessment of failure by the leadership, thus a proper apology and a full evaluation to prevent a repeat of the same mistake. Will that be done? No way. Thus, sooner or later, a battle will be fought in the CHP and this time, party leadership will be at stake.
Was there rigging in the vote?
Excluding massive exploitation of his privileged status as prime minister and thus the use of public money in the campaign, no one can accuse Erdoğan of being elected president in an unjust election.
Erdoğan must be congratulated for his election victory. Was there rigging? Was there massive election fraud similar to the one that helped to the steal Ankara mayor seat? No… Yet, one candidate using all public means, enjoying the maximum benefits of his position of prime minister while other two candidates tried to find sideways to reach the public clearly showed that before the next election, the rules must be changed and the principle should be introduced that candidates should either step down from their positions or should not be able to benefit from public means during the campaign period.
Otherwise, the presidential elections will continue to be advantageous for those in top official seats.