One of the “assets” of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) administration over the past decade has been the stability and predictability it provided Turkish politics. The success of the AKP to put an end to the post-1980 political instability and unpredictability was perhaps one of the strongest factors that helped the AKP score consecutive, sweeping electoral victories and push up its level of electoral support from 2002’s 34 percent to 2011’s near 50 percent.
The statements of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the weekend that “this brother of yours will be a candidate for the AKP chairmanship at the September convention for the last time” and that “I am mortal as well” demonstrated that change is on the horizon… Whether it is for better or for worse will be seen in time.
What is that change that is coming? First of all, Turkey is heading once again into a period of unpredictability. Why? Erdoğan’s assertion that he is a “mortal as well” was in effect a testimony to his aspirations, as well as a warning to his supporters that they should not expect him to remain at the helm of the party and the government forever and must prepare for a transfer of power. His declaration that he would seek re-election as AKP leader for a fourth and last time was a declaration at the same time that he has decided to end active party politics and will ascend the stairs to the presidency.
Turkey is no longer the Turkey of 2007 and all possible opponents to Erdoğan’s presidency have long been “castrated.” Would anyone stand against Erdoğan’s presidency if he decides to run in the first public election of the president in August 2014? Political opponents would probably create some noise, that’s all.
So far so good. What will happen then? That is exactly why I have been complaining that Turkish politics have started heading into a new unpredictable period.
If, under the latest decision of the Constitutional Court, Abdullah Gül can seek re-election for a second five-year term after completing his current seven-year term, will Gül compete with Erdoğan for the presidency? I doubt Gül will become a candidate should Erdoğan decide to run. Yet, Gül will obviously come under very strong pressures to seek re-election. Those pressures will not come necessarily from those trying to stir up the AKP, but will mostly be a product of appreciation of his unexpectedly cool performance in the presidency so far. Yes, some circles have been complaining that he has become a notary approving everything submitted by the government but still, since he became president, Gül has successfully remained removed from political disagreements and has even won praise from hardcore opponents.
What will happen to Gül then? Will he be Erdoğan’s successor as party leader and in the Prime Ministry, producing some sort of Putin/Medvedev-like dynasty in Turkey? It’s very unlikely… Besides, if Erdoğan really wants to be the “absolute leader,” he would want a caretaker successor in government and in the party. A Gül that completed the presidency with honors would not accept such a role as he briefly did back in 2002.
Would People’s Voice Party (HSP) Numan Kurtulmuş accept such a role? Interestingly enough, Kurtulmuş appears to be two sizes bigger for such a role as well.