Gül and Erdoğan once again

Gül and Erdoğan once again

Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s words yesterday, Nov. 29, on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s vow to lift the immunities of 10 deputies in Parliament endorsed a discrepancy between them as two fellows in politics for many years.

Erdoğan had said Parliament should consider lifting the parliamentary immunities of nine deputies of the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) – the 10th deputy being close to the group – for praising the attacks of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); some of them had had pictures as they embraced PKK militants (one of them wanted for killing soldiers) who had blocked a road to carry out their armed propaganda earlier this year in southeastern Turkey near the Iraqi border. Right after Erdoğan’s challenge, a number of ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) deputies submitted a petition to a parliamentary commission to make that real.

Gül made it clear that he thought lifting the immunities of BDP deputies would be like Turkey dragging itself into a “dead end” once again. He was pointing at the 1994 incident when five Kurdish-origin members of Parliament had been stripped of their immunity; three of them were later tried and put in prison, which did not help Turkey find a solution to its Kurdish problem. Gül also warned the BDP deputies to refrain from praising acts of terrorism, something he found “unacceptable.”

But it is not only the discrepancy between him and Gül which could stop Erdoğan from making his vow real. Kurdish-origin deputies within the AK Parti are not all comfortable with Erdoğan’s stance. Galip Ensarioğlu for example, a deputy for Diyarbakır and influential former head of the chamber of commerce of the city told reporters in Parliament that if the bill came to the General Assembly he would reject it. Mehmet Ali Şahin, Erdoğan’s deputy chairman in the party and the head of its delegation in the Constitution Conciliation Commission, told CNNTürk yesterday evening that they might not be in a rush to bring the bill to the General Assembly. That means those files could be held in the hands of the government as the sword of Damocles regarding the future moves of the BDP.

It also means something else. Following the attempt to have local elections earlier, it will be yet another case of Erdoğan taking a step back from his political moves. There are indications that something similar might happen to his ambitious presidential system, which has been submitted to the Conciliation Commission. On his way back from Madrid on Nov. 27, he told journalists he found the checks and balances mechanism in the U.S. slowed down the president from achieving what he wanted; Erdoğan wants to see a president in Turkey who can take quicker decisions with less control. That will not make everyone happy in Turkey; Gül had his warning earlier on that, too.

* NOTE: My commentary yesterday on the properties owned by families of the leaders of the 1980 military coup was based on a report by the Financial Crimes Investigation Board. It appears that report was not accurate enough. I apologize if my commentary led any Hürriyet Daily News reader to undesired conclusions.