It might be Gül after all
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may have been nominated for the presidency, but the question of who will lead the Justice and Development Party (AKP) after him still remains uncertain. Whoever becomes leader, and consequently prime minister, the AKP will clearly shy away from a power struggle within in the party in the lead-up to the 2015 general elections, as AKP deputies are aware that this would play into the hands of their enemies.
One can assume, therefore, that unity within the party will be largely maintained until after the election. The problem is what happens after that. This is also Erdoğan’s dilemma. He has been saying that an elected president and an elected prime minister will make Turkey soar.
This presupposes a president and a prime minister that are in tune. Given his openly declared intention to use presidential powers to the hilt, what Erdoğan needs is a compliant prime minister. But this has to be a person who does not appear subservient in order to avoid giving AKP deputies the impression that they are only in Parliament to rubber stamp the president’s directives.
No doubt, many AKP deputies will be more than happy to do this for the sake of their personal interests. It is hard to conceive, however, that all will be happy. Erdoğan, however, needs a unified AKP after the elections, as it would enable him to change the Constitution so he can legally use the executive powers he plans to use.
This is the point at which eyes turn to incumbent President Abdullah Gül, even though he has declared that he has no political plans for the future. It seems both Erdoğan and the AKP need Gül for the sake of the party’s future simply because he has the capacity to work in harmony with Erdoğan, while keeping the party together.
It is noteworthy that Gül also uttered remarks recently, during a meeting with a delegation of businessmen from Kayseri, which suggest he may be considering a political future after all. But Gül does not want to be a prime minister who is at Erdoğan’s beck and call.
As a long time comrade-in-arms, he has a certain capacity to be influential over Erdoğan. Gül has also proved, in the lead-up to Erdoğan’s nomination for the presidency, that for all his nice talk about advanced democracy, he has the AKP’s welfare and political mission first and foremost in mind. He is, after all, a co-founder of the party.
Put all this together and you have in Gül a potential prime minister who will work closely with Erdoğan, not only negotiating with him, before Erdoğan announces his political plans and projects, but also steering him with regard to these, while ultimately remaining in line with the AKP’s, and hence Erdoğan’s, political mission.
This will not only prevent cracks in the future between the president and the prime minister, but will also maintain party unity while making AKP deputies feel they are part of the political process, and not just Erdoğan’s puppets in Parliament.
Gül could also end up in this scenario ultimately providing the only semblance of “checks and balances” against Erdoğan’s unbridled ambitions, by not obstructing Erdoğan, but by helping him to be a little more moderate. So it might be Gül after all.