Turkey's former President Gül 'ready' to serve again if 'needed'

Turkey's former President Gül 'ready' to serve again if 'needed'

Former Turkish President Abdullah Gül appeared live on news channel NTV on the evening of Sept. 17 for the first time since he handed over his post to President Tayyip Erdoğan after the presidential elections on Aug. 10, 2014.

What he has had to say has been a matter of concern in not only political circles but also economic circles as well since then, especially following the June 7 elections, before which President Erdoğan had put his weight behind the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) campaign with a target to shift into a presidential system and after which the AK Parti lost its parliamentary majority. Amid the “What did we do wrong?” debate within the party eyes had turned to Gül, with some criticism that if he had spoken up more clearly, even before the presidential elections in 2014 in order to claim to be the chairman after Erdoğan, things would have unfolded differently in Turkey; in a rather moderate manner.

Apart from what he said in private conversations, Gül had always responded to those criticisms in public with almost the same remark: That he was one of the founders of the party, it was his party and he - as someone who served as president - would not put himself forward for active politics again. Yet, especially after Erdoğan started to overshadow Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu - whom he had hand-picked as his successor - as Turkey was heading for the June 7 elections, Gül was starting to be seen as a potential alternative who didn’t have any ambition to rule the country single-handedly.

Actually, it is no secret Gül at first wanted to speak up before the AK Parti congress on Sept. 12 but later on changed his mind, probably not to be accused of stirring things up if things went south.

During the interview Gül gave no radical message to change the course of events; it is not his style anyway. But he made some important remarks and gave a number of hints about himself and the flow of Turkish politics, to whom they may concern.

He left one question unanswered; the one about whether he believed the AK Parti today looked like the party he co-founded in 2001. 

But Gül said that if names like Ali Babacan and Beşir Atalay were the names who contributed most to the AK Parti during its 13-year rule, it would be a pity if they would be pushed outside (Babacan and Atalay were speculated to be left out of the AK Parti parliamentary candidate list for the Nov. 1 reelections, but the next day when Davutoğlu announced it, both of them were there).

Gül said he reached the zenith of his political career by serving as the president. But that does not mean he lost his interest into politics, because he said he saw that things are not going in the right direction, neither in politics (including foreign policy), nor in the economy and the Kurdish issue, which he again said he considered as the major problem in Turkey.

He said he could of course serve again if his services were “needed.” So if anything bad happens in the country, Gül said he was there live and kicking with “no ambitions,” no target of shifting into a presidential system and no opposition to coalition governments if necessary. He already proved his inclusive and tolerant governance when he was president. 

In a way what Gül describes as a model is almost the antithesis of Erdoğan’s. In an atmosphere where no strong alternative to Erdoğan is present from the opposition front, Gül indirectly presents one from within the AK Parti.