An early start for power game in Ankara

An early start for power game in Ankara

Turkish politicians started to discuss the next president after Abdullah Gül in the last days of 2011.
This may look a bit strange for outside observers since Gül has been elected by the parliament in August 2007 for a seven year period, which makes the whole debate start too early.

But right after that election Turks voted in a referendum in October 2007 for electing the President though popular vote for a five year term, which enables for candidacy for a second five year term. And because of the fact that the ruling Justice and democracy Party (AK Parti) government failed to pass a new law to regulate how to elect the new president in harmony with the referendum results, the opposition parties Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) claim Gül’s term should terminate in 2012.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared his position in favor of 2014; a hint showing that the presidential election law might be approved by the Parliament early 2012.

It has been voiced in the AK Parti Parliamentary group a number of times before that Erdoğan’s next stop was going to be the Presidential Palace on top of the Çankaya Hill in Ankara. But earlier this week, and for the first time, a cabinet minister who is known for being the most loyal to Erdoğan, Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım has openly said the Party favored Erdoğan as the next President and that is going to happen in 2014.

The same night, Dec. 27, President Gül said in an interview on private TV channel “24” he had no ambition to go any further after Cankaya (having served as foreign minister, deputy prime minister and prime minister before); yet not closing all the doors on returning to active politics.

One might conclude that Gül’s reply was complimentary to what Yıldırım said earlier that day. But one has to consider that the interview with Gül was announced days before and Yıldırım (and Erdoğan for sure) knew in advance that Gül would appear on screen that night and questions on Presidency were expected to come during the broadcast. It’s like a virtual play; main actors of the same party try to understand each other’s position indirectly, without confronting each other and thus without damaging their personal relationship, which they will need soon.

It seems Erdoğan has designed the whole party politics based on his presidency in 2014; the article in the AK Parti regulation saying no one will be a member of parliament for more than three consecutive terms dictates that to him in the first place.

But there are nearly 80 more AK Parti deputies in the Parliament in the same position, who could not be a candidate in 2015 general elections; including big shots like deputy Prime Ministers Bülent Arınç and Ali Babacan, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek, deputy party chairmen like Abdülkadir Aksu, Hüseyin Çelik and Ömer Çelik. There are those who link the recent rise in salaries of retired parliamentarians to this after-party effect; but the picture is more serious and complicated than that.

If Erdoğan goes up to Çankaya in 2014, it needs an experienced captain to sail the ship full of new crew. That’s why Gül’s name is circulated as the possible AK Parti leader after Erdoğan.