The future could be Gül’s

The future could be Gül’s

Eyes have turned to President Abdullah Gül following the massive probe which could end up revealing Turkey’s greatest corruption scandal to date, and which has left Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan facing the most difficult moments of his political career.

Many have been wondering why Gül had still not said much about the probe days after news about it hit the headlines, shaking the country to the core. He was understandably caught between a rock and a hard place.

Government circles and the pro-government media clearly expected him to intimate that there could be a political motive behind this probe aimed at undermining Turkey’s successes under Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Gül himself, after all, hails from the AKP, a party he co-founded with Erdoğan, but whose image has now been severely tarnished as a result of this probe. Many party supporters would undoubtedly have also liked to see him weighing in on behalf of Erdoğan and the AKP.

Given his constitutional position, however, which puts him above party politics, Gül would have lost all credibility had he done so, especially when he too faces presidential elections next summer, even if he has not let on yet if he will be a candidate.

Those on the opposite side of the fence to Erdoğan and the AKP, on the other hand, have been expecting an announcement from Gül underlining the need to weed out corruption and go as far as necessary in the current probe, no matter where it reaches.

Gül finally broke his silence on Tuesday and did just that.

He stressed that there would not be a cover-up in this investigation. “If there is corruption or some other wrongdoing, this cannot be covered up. Everyone should be relaxed about this,” Gül said during a ceremony for the Presidential Culture and Arts Awards in Ankara.

The steps the government has been taking with regards to this probe have been interpreted by many as crude and legally questionable attempts at stymieing the work of detectives, the judiciary, and the media as the investigation unfolds, so Gül’s remarks will be reassuring for the skeptical portion of the public.

Gül also revealed that he had held a long discussion with Erdoğan about the current probe, although he did not let on what was talked about. He nevertheless indicated that Erdoğan would be doing what was necessary in terms of the ministers implicated in this scandal, and that the public should wait patiently.

It is telling that those ministers started resigning a day after Gül spoke. But there is little virtue in the resignations of Interior Minister Muammer Güler and Economy Minister Zafer Çaglayan on Wednesday. Given Gül’s statement, these came too late and too reluctantly for them to be honorable.

Of course the former ministers will continue to say that they had given in their resignations the day the scandal broke, but that Erdoğan had not accepted these. Few, however, will give much credence to this at stage. Put another way the writing on the wall was clear for them and they were obviously exhorted to resign by Erdoğan following his discussion with the president.

Eyes will continue to rest on Gül who is emerging not just as moderate but also a principled voice at a time of political turbulence or crisis. Gül has also been underlining the importance of the EU’s legal standards for Turkey for a long time, a fact that will also shed positive light on him abroad, at a time like this.

Many believe that these latest developments will benefit Gül politically in the long run, not because of any calculations on his part, but because his honesty and generally principled stand will bring him automatic dividends at a time when respect for politics and politicians has hit rock bottom in Turkey.
This is why the future could very well be Gül’s.