Gül refuses to join Erdoğan’s one-man politics

Gül refuses to join Erdoğan’s one-man politics

Balances in Turkish politics continue to change rapidly with new surprises, as in the case of the latest statement from President Abdullah Gül on April 18.

He said under the current circumstances, he did not have any future plans regarding political life.
At first, this statement might give the impression that he will quit the presidential race in August for a second term and leave the path to the Presidential Palace on top of Çankaya Hill in Ankara to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s candidacy alone.

That could be misleading. Because in a follow-up question about whether the statement referred to his possible candidacy for a second term, Gül said he had not been elected president as an independent candidate, meaning he must consult on the issue with friends in order to make a decision. So, he did not close the doors to the possibility for a second term as president if he agrees with his long-time fellow Erdoğan. It is also interesting to note that he used a plural term, so there might be friends other than Erdoğan as well.

What Gül meant by saying, “No future plans in politics” is ruling out one of the scenarios voiced among the political circles in Ankara for a long time: that Erdoğan and Gül will swap places like Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev did in Russia.

Gül ruled out the Medvedev model on April 18 anyway.

But Gül’s move is mainly because of a statement from Erdoğan, which was leaked from a closed meeting on April 16 with the MPs of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti). In that meeting, Erdoğan had asked MPs to answer two questionnaires:

1- Write down your three candidates for presidency. That was sort of asking MPs to declare their support for his possible decision on presidency.

2- Write down if you are for the lifting of ban on more than three consecutive terms for Parliament. That was sort of asking them to support him if he decides to stay PM.

And the leaked statement was that he would use all of the powers given to the president by the Constitution.

This might sound weird for outsiders; what could be wrong about that?

The problem is drawn from the Constitution itself. It was written right after the military coup in 1980 and even the coup leader, later on President Kenan Evren did not dare to use all of the powers stated in Article 104, like “calling for a Cabinet meeting whenever necessary,” which downgrades the prime minister to Cabinet-coordinator status and looks like a recipe for political crisis.

On top of unpleasant criticism from the AK Parti ranks against himself, when Gül confirmed from his sources that Erdoğan had actually said this in the closed session, he told his close aides, “He would not accept to be a protocol prime minister” under the circumstances.

This is not closing the book of politics for Gül, this is the opening of another bargaining position. He sort of said to Erdoğan that, as president, he was not going to get into the Congress procedures and face under belly hits to be a part of Erdoğan’s one-man political design.

If the circumstances change, the position changes and if Erdoğan decides to continue as the head of his party and the government would best serve the strategic interests of himself, his family, party and country, it is still possible that he could tell Gül that he would back his candidacy for a second term. But the balances are changing too quickly and a new week could bring Turkey a totally new political situation.