Erdoğan’s embrace of Gül’s return to politics reshuffles cards

Erdoğan’s embrace of Gül’s return to politics reshuffles cards

Deniz Zeyrek ANKARA
Erdoğan’s embrace of Gül’s return to politics reshuffles cards

Former President Abdullah Gül. AA Photo

Abdullah Gül’s potential decision to run for parliament has created a ripple of excitement among the senior officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who have been feeling alienated from the new leadership of the party.

Former President Gül, who co-founded the AKP with successor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2001, had already indicated that he would not be returning to politics with the ruling party in defiance at the absence of consent from his long-time comrade Erdoğan.

Gül, who will, under normal circumstances, not be able to make any plans for the prime ministry or leadership of the AKP until 2019 if he does not run in the June 7 parliamentary elections. However, senior AKP officials have been extending an invitation to Gül to return to the party.

Gül has waited for an invitation from Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu since he does not want to return to politics by “competing and fighting.”

Last week, Erdoğan said it would be “felicitous and propitious” if Gül declared his candidacy to run in the upcoming elections, with sources saying the two founders of the AKP would soon meet to discuss the issue.

“I think such a decision by him would be felicitous and propitious,” Erdoğan said in Ankara on March 6, responding to a reporter’s question about Gül’s possible candidacy. “The issue of the candidacy is at his own discretion,” he said, adding that he had spoken with Gül last week about his father’s illness, wishing him a speedy recovery.

Incompatibility between newcomers and veterans

Veteran figures within the party, who has had difficulty “connecting with the new leadership team” after Erdoğan handed over the prime ministry and the leadership of the party to Davutoğlu upon being elected to his current post, have been apparently more excited than others due to Erdoğan’s latest statement.

A senior AKP figure, who is known to be close to Erdoğan, underlined that the president’s recent remarks describing Gül’s potential return to politics as “felicitous and propitious” were not delivered either randomly or accidentally.

Another veteran AKP figure drew attention to the fact that Erdoğan is a politician who reads and interprets what streets and the party organization imply and follows a realistic policy, while another veteran argued that Gül’s return to the party with consent from Erdoğan would be a move that would design the AKP’s roadmap.

Delegations and persuasion

In last 15 days, the number of AKP lawmakers who are banned from running for parliament in the upcoming elections due to the AKP’s internal three-term limit, sent delegations respectively to Davutoğlu, Erdoğan and again to Davutoğlu. The lawmakers have not hidden their pleasure over the possibility of Gül’s return. Meanwhile, a considerable number of AKP figures believe that Erdoğan’s call is probably related to his disappointment with former National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan’s resignation from the post to run in the June 7 elections, despite his objection.

Gül and Erdoğan are expected to sit and talk in detail before the end of March over the prospects of the former’s candidacy. Names close to Gül have already begun their attempts to persuade him to return to politics, as they regard Erdoğan’s statement as a “signal.”

AKP convention on Sept 27

Having received no positive signal regarding his potential political career within the AKP from Erdoğan ahead of the August 2014 presidential elections, Gül chose to move to Istanbul from Ankara.

“He wanted to do politics within the AKP, only on condition of not competing or fighting against Erdoğan. A race between Erdoğan and Gül would be harmful both for AK Parti and Turkey,” a source from the inner circle of Gül said on condition of anonymity.

When asked whether Gül would run for parliament, another figure from Gül’s inner circle who has been working with him for many years said: “Why not if he is invited appropriately? I suppose he wouldn’t like to be a lawmaker just to raise and put down his hand in Parliament’s General Assembly.”

The regular party convention of the AKP is scheduled to be held on Sept. 27 and those who are eager for Gül’s leadership believe that the composition at that convention will carry Gül to the leadership of the party – and if he is already elected as deputy at that time – to the prime ministry.

Random meeting at Friday prayer and distances in Istanbul

Two leading AKP figures, AKP Deputy Chair Mehmet Ali Şahin and the AKP leader’s chief advisor, Hüseyin Çelik, who have been willing to see Gül as the leader of their party, were in Istanbul on March 6 when Erdoğan delivered remarks about Gül’s return while in Ankara on the same day.

Sources said Şahin and Çelik’s encountering with Gül at the same mosque where they went to perform Friday prayer was just random. Still, it was notable that Gül, who resides in Tarabya, chose a mosque in Beyoğlu for the Friday prayer.