AKP commits the same mistake on Gül: Why does everybody speak on his behalf?

AKP commits the same mistake on Gül: Why does everybody speak on his behalf?

“The time has come,” President Abdullah Gül told reporters last week, right after the local polls, lighting the flame of debates on the upcoming presidential elections. He also expressed his willingness to sit around the same table with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to talk about their future political careers, as well as the future of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), as the co-founders of the party some 13 years ago. 

Erdoğan’s initial response to Gül was positive, but he also included the word “discussions” in his reply.

“I also share our president’s approach that we will decide upon the issue following discussions between us,” he said at a press conference on Friday, ahead of his departure to Azerbaijan. Following Erdoğan’s positive response to Gül, almost all ministers and top Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials rushed to make statements on the very sensitive issue, with comments including so-called “formulas” to secure a position for President Gül in his post-presidency term.

In a general reading of AKP officials’ statements, two important messages are observed:
 First, they regard the results of the local polls as a clear green light for Erdoğan’s presidency. Therefore, it’s all about Erdoğan’s decision, and not something that Erdoğan and Gül will decide together. In fact, Erdoğan himself, too, reads the local polls results in this way. In a meeting with pro-government media on Sunday, he described the next president as someone running, sweating, and therefore working at full speed, not as a symbolic or protocol president. He was, in fact, hinting at what kind of president he would be. 

 In addition, he also sent important clues about his government’s pre-election strategy during his parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday. He made no surprises in expressing his determination to eliminate what he calls the “parallel state,” and to make them pay for what they did to Turkey. We will see more about the government’s actions against the Fethullah Gülen community and hear more of Erdoğan speaking about how evil this parallel state is throughout his presidential campaign.

 In the second part of AKP officials’ statements is the future job of Abdullah Gül. Many have said that they would surely see Gül as the head of the AKP and as the prime minister. However, as Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah İşler has said, there is no automatic prime ministry for Gül as he is not a parliamentarian. Gül should first be elected as a deputy, İşler stated, citing the possibility of implementing what they call “the Bayburt model.”

 According to Turkish laws, by-elections should be held within 90 days if a city loses all of its representatives at Parliament. Bayburt currently has just one deputy, and this deputy’s resignation would suffice to prompt a by-election this fall. There are other options as well, as stated by Deputy AKP head Hüseyin Çelik.

 Another common point of all such statements is that they all lack Gül’s own views about his political future. He calmly expressed his disturbance with all of such formulas designed for himself on Tuesday, saying “My own words are going to be crucial on issues concerning my situation.”  

 Gül’s statement recalled a major crisis between Gül and Erdoğan’s government during a legal debate over Abdullah Gül’s mandate in 2012. At that time, AKP officials believed that Gül’s mandate was only for seven years and that he had no right to be re-elected. But the Constitutional Court corrected the AKP’s expectations, underlining that Gül could have another presidential term if he wanted to run for the post.

 Many senior ruling party officials, including some of Gül’s closest friends, were making comments on behalf of him, with some trying to arrange credible international positions for him. Right in the middle of this debate, Gül’s spokesperson Ahmet Sever openly expressed the president’s disturbance at disrespectful statements toward the presidency, adding that Gül may perfectly run for a second term if he wanted to. It’s noteworthy to underline that we have not yet heard from Gül’s own mouth that he does not want another term at the presidency.

 Forecasting a major crisis between Gül and Erdoğan may be artificial, but this process until August has the potential to produce tension between the AKP and the presidency. If AKP officials and lawmakers really want to see Gül as their new leader, they should surely be more cautious in their statements.