A race in Ankara: Who will replace Erdoğan?

A race in Ankara: Who will replace Erdoğan?

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has been criticizing the opposition parties for some time over their inability to announce their candidates for the first round of the presidential elections on Aug. 10.
Indeed, they have not announced them.

Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has been touring other opposition parties in search of a joint candidate against Erdoğan for a while. Yesterday, he denied reports that he had asked President Abdullah Gül to be the opposition’s candidate.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has been touring trade unions and NGOs to be able to come up with a moderate name from within his party who can attract votes from other parties if the election extends to the second round on Aug. 24.

The People’s Democracy Party/Peace and Democracy Party (HDP/BDP) are living in their own universe. They seem to be focused on a possible bargain with Erdoğan to get concessions on the Kurdish issue, as the candidate will need a 50 percent plus 1 vote to ascend to the Presidential Palace on top of Çankaya Hill in Ankara.

But Erdoğan has not announced his candidacy either. He has not announced his candidacy – and neither has anyone else from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti).

He had said in early May that the name would be clear by the end of May, now he says it will be clear by the second half of June.

Abdülkadir Selvi of pro-government daily Yeni Şafak wrote in his column that a PollMark study recently showed that Erdoğan could get 53 percent in the first round, if he is named as a candidate. Selvi also wrote that the PM’s wife, “Who used to be against” Erdoğan being president, was now “more flexible. This might sound like Kremlinology alla Turca in the 21st century to some of you, but why then is Erdoğan not announcing his candidacy?

Here is another question, the million-dollar question: Who will replace Erdoğan as PM and leader of the AK Parti?

That is the biggest worry of the party’s heavy guns who are afraid that after a charismatic and powerful leader like Erdoğan, perhaps only Abdullah Gül could hold the party together and avoid a regression or perhaps a split, as happened to the Motherland Party (ANAP) after the late Turgut Özal.

But following Erdoğan’s remarks that he would like to be a president who will use all of the position’s powers and also de facto lead the party (which is not constitutional), Gül made it clear that he would not take part in that game under those circumstances and take a step aside to clear the way for his long-time fellow Erdoğan.

That is the main problem now. Erdoğan knows that without Gül, he could risk the future of his party and power, but with Gül he will not be able to exercise the amount of power he desires to rule the country.

So the actual question, the $10 million question: Does Erdoğan want anyone to replace him anyway? Or does he want to have actual control over all possible positions as president?

That is a hard question to answer. So, it is still possible that, in order not to lose his power as PM, he might revise his decision to keep a ban on serving more than three consecutive terms in Parliament, which is necessary to be PM, and ask Gül to run for a second term as president. Or he might not step down from his words, put his candidacy forward, and take all foreseeable risks for his and his party’s future.