Gül is still in the Turkish power game

Gül is still in the Turkish power game

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan warned the media once again not to report as if there were any opinion differences within the ranks only a day before the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) Congress; ‘There shouldn’t be any strife,’ he warned the ranks, too.

On Oct. 1, following President Abdullah Gül’s speech to open the new legislative year of Turkish Parliament, it was Erdoğan who said that he did not want to get into a row with the president, but he thought differently on an issue which Gül had opened up minutes before.

When Erdoğan revealed the discrepancy, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had already congratulated the president for those words; a rare occasion in Turkish politics, since Gül was elected by AK Parti votes (as one of the founders of the party) back in 2007.

It was not only the CHP but the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) opposition deputies who had applauded Gül as well because of those words. It was when Gül, at the very beginning of his speech, said that he was sorry about the elected deputies in jail and said that he was for their release to serve in Parliament until courts sentence them for what they were accused of.

There are eight deputies-elect of Turkish Parliament who have been in jail since before the June 2011 elections and are still kept there without any conviction. Five of them are members of the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), two of them are from the CHP and one from the MHP list. The MHP deputy, retired army officer Engin Alan was recently sentenced to 18 years in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) case, but that is not a finalized sentence yet since he will go to Supreme Court of Appeals.

The other part of Gül’s speech where he got a wave of applause from the opposition seats was the part when he mentioned the need for media freedom, and said he was against putting journalists in jail because of what they write if it does not promote violence. That means something in Turkey where dozens of journalists and writers are in jail. Moreover, as a hidden reference to the barring of six opposition newspapers from covering the AK Parti Congress on Sept. 30, Gül said there should be no barrier between journalists and their right to inform the public.

In reply, Erdoğan said the party congress was a private occasion and it was up to the party to decide whom to take in; the prime minister did not think the same way as the president on that issue either.

In the congress, Erdoğan made it clear a day ago that he wanted to be at the steering wheel of the country for another 10 years, which includes the presidential elections of 2014, when for the first time people will vote for the new president. But by taking the license to be able to run for a second term from a recent Constitutional Court ruling, Gül implied that he was still in the Turkish power game.