As Gül denies new party

As Gül denies new party

President Abdullah Gül denied claims in one national newspaper yesterday, July 17, that he was so sidelined in the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – of which together with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Bülent Arınç, he was one of the three founders – that he might continue politics in a new party.

A written statement from the presidency categorically rejected such a probability or intention, stressing while the president on various occasions expressed “similar assessments,” he never hinted an intention to quit the AKP and set up a new party.

Of course, out of courtesy to Gül, a politician I believe in his integrity and definitely high caliber, I would not want to remind the “Kayserililer” in the AKP and some other conservative political arena of Turkish politics and repeated efforts to form a new party through recruiting a very prominent business-nongovernmental organization chairperson as its transitional leader. “Kayserililer,” of course does not necessarily mean the entire group members are from Kayseri, but rather it might be interpreted as a group subscribing to some sort of an Islamist version of Calvinism.

Right, perhaps better to go a little deeper. Remember “rumors” just a while ago about Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, the chairperson of the Union of Chambers, stepping down from his post, becoming the “transitional leader” of a new center-right party and after his tenure of presidency taking over the leadership from Gül. Those “rumors” were all denied of course, but the validity of those “denials” were not more than believing in this age a repeat of a virgin birth.

In any case, a new center-right or conservative party effort failed long ago and a new one established a while ago was a still-born one, which cannot have any chance of success. Anyhow, in less than a few weeks after it was established that a new party had to reshuffle its top echelons, this demonstrated vividly on what a shaky ground it was erected.

However, there is an acute need for a center-right party firmly anchored to democracy, secularism and patriotism, but attentive as well to linguistic, ethnic and religious sensitivities. In a way, Turkey badly needs a new Motherland Party similar to the late Turgut Özal – a party that could bring together pious Muslims, conservatives adhering to the secular republic ideal of the founding fathers, social democrats, liberal conservatives and liberals. In a way, the AKP attempted to repeat the Motherland Party example, particularly after Gül become president and Erdoğan established his “absolute ruler” style leadership on the party and the country. During this period, the AKP rapidly became some sort of a Turkish version of the Muslim Brotherhood pursuing a Sunni brotherhood philosophy with a neo-Ottomanist approach.

That political understanding incompatible with the notion of democratic governance ushered Turkey to what the prime minister masterly designed, the “advanced democracy of a new Turkey” – still a sui generis democracy, but this time not one under boots, one under absolute rule of a yelling, ever angry leader and different all together from the global pillars of democratic governance.

Gül, of course, is young and could serve this country in many ways. He will most likely not sit idle at an Istanbul mansion and enjoy retirement at the age of 60 or so. Particularly if Erdoğan wants to be the president, prime minister, party leader, chief judge and the executioner all at the same time. Turkey will not have many alternatives but to turn to people like Gül and scream for a way out of the messy situation it landed itself in.

Would it mean much if Gül denied or not claims that he would establish a new party because he was sidelined in the AKP? Or is there anyone not sidelined in the AKP and can the AKP continue on like that and still claim the country is ruled by a pluralist democracy?