Is an Erdoğan-Gül deal still possible?

Is an Erdoğan-Gül deal still possible?

“Under today’s circumstances,” said President Abdullah Gül, “I don’t have any political plan for the future.” The statement came only 16 days after Gül announced that the time to talk about the upcoming presidential elections had come, expressing his willingness to talk about the political careers of himself and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a meeting.

On Wednesday at a press conference with the visiting Latvian president, Gül stressed that he had not yet talked to Erdoğan over the presidential elections, so it’s clear that Gül had still yet to consult with the prime minister at that point. One of the quickest results of this statement was that it would force Erdoğan to discuss the presidential elections with Gül sooner than he was perhaps planning.

The key words in Gül’s statement are “current circumstances.” Although the timing of this announcement was surprising, his disturbance over the developments of the last 10 days has been quite obvious. He expressed this at another press conference last week, calling on government officials and Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers not to talk about issues concerning his decisions on his behalf.

He was also disturbed by Erdoğan’s description of the next head of the nation “as a running and sweating president who will implement all his constitutional authority,” meaning that he will act as the head of the executive, casting a shadow on the prime minister. Under the current circumstances, Erdoğan, once elected as president, will convene the Cabinet, will issue decrees and appoint all top bureaucrats, judges, and ambassadors, etc.

The messages that Erdoğan conveyed on Tuesday and Wednesday about the presidency and the future of the AKP were also important. He said the institutional structure of the party was much more important than the names, and that there will be no “flood” after him. 

He was trying to secure with all his lawmakers that the party would remain intact and that their places were also secure, as he could discuss its current three-term rule. He made another move in this process by revisiting his plans to change the Election Law and to adopt narrowed constituencies, which would increase the number of seats by 25 if the AKP gets the same number of votes that it got in 2011.
Although AKP lawmakers respect Gül very much, it’s certain that today’s AKP is not the one Gül and Erdoğan formed together.

Gül said he would not be a “Medvedev,” in reference to the Russian style of politics, and won’t accept being a puppet prime minister. His final bet would be to continue in his job for another five years.

Erdoğan’s plan, however, seems to be to get elected as the president and then to appoint one of his closest men as the prime minister to rule the country. In short, he will be all at the same time: The president, the prime minister, and the chairman of the AKP. Let’s not get surprised if by this time next year we are seeing President Erdoğan hitting the roads for the AKP’s election campaign.

 In today’s circumstances, a deal between Erdoğan and Gül over the presidency and the prime ministry is now less possible.