Outgoing President Gül signals return as AKP draws road map for post-Erdoğan era

Outgoing President Gül signals return as AKP draws road map for post-Erdoğan era

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA
Outgoing President Gül signals return as AKP draws road map for post-Erdoğan era

Abdullah Gül’s name has started to be cited again as a possible prime minister succeeding to Erdoğan. AA Photo

Outgoing President Abdullah Gül gave a strong signal for his return to active politics in the ranks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Aug. 11, though on the same day the AKP decided to hold an extraordinary convention to elect the new chairman on Aug. 27, in an apparent move to stop Gül immediately joining the party as leader.

“I am de facto president until the end of this month. No doubt I will return to my party after my presidency ends. This is only natural for me. I believe that Turkey, in all means, will powerfully proceed its way,” President Gül said on Aug. 11 during a reception with journalists at the presidency in Ankara.

Gül’s statement came as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president-elect, was chairing the AKP’s highest decision-making body, the Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), to discuss a road map for the election of the new chairman and thus the new prime minister. Only an hour after Gül announced his decision to return to the AKP, Hüseyin Çelik, the party’s spokesperson, declared that the extraordinary convention will be held on Aug. 27, a day before the official presidential handover.

“I am continuing to hold my official title of president,” Gül said, in response to questions on the ruling AKP’s upcoming extraordinary convention, declining to comment on party affairs as the serving head of the state.

“What is natural is to continue serving my nation and my state,” he added, saying people who have served as presidents “could continue their service in different paths.” In his remarks, Gül underlined that “his political identity is well known” and referred to the AKP as “my party,” while recalling that he was politically impartial during his presidential service.

Timing of convention prevents Gül’s immediate leadership

However, the timing of the convention prevents Gül from returning to the AKP as the chairman, as his presidential mandate will not have expired on Aug. 27, when the party will decide its new head.

“This date has nothing to do with Mr. Gül’s return but Erdoğan’s departure. That’s all I want to say about it,” Çelik told reporters after the MKYK meeting.

Çelik added that Erdoğan’s party chairmanship will end on Aug. 27 when the new leader is elected, the day before Erdoğan receives his presidential mandate. “Our prime minister regards the party as his child and he wants to be sure about its well-being,” he said.

The convention’s single agenda will be electing the new party leader, Çelik also said, adding that no specific names had been discussed at the MKYK.

Gül’s return ‘normal’

Although Çelik said the position Gül will have at the party will be determined in due course, he also praised the veteran politician’s performance both as president and in his earlier positions.

“There cannot be anything more natural than Mr. Gül returning to the AK Party. It won’t be a surprise to anybody. Do you think he will join the Workers Party [İP] or the CHP [Republican People’s Party]?” he joked.

Çelik also said those who are predicting a rift between Erdoğan and Gül will be disappointed, as two men are “not rivals but complementary to each other.”

Although Gül plans to return to the AKP, he cannot be prime minister as he is not currently a deputy. Therefore, another figure from the party must be appointed as prime minister, which could complicate the party’s management. “The MKYK has decided that there will be no double-headedness in the party,” Çelik said.

Under this condition, the only way for Gül to compete for the AKP leadership on Aug. 27 is his resignation from the presidency before his mandate expires, but Çelik ruled out this option, underlining that it would not be in line with the AKP’s political culture.

I hope for his success: Gül

Meanwhile, Gül himself welcomed the election of Erdoğan as the new president. “After founding our party, I was the first prime minister and then first president. I am happy that my party now brings its second president,” he said.

Gül said he congratulated Erdoğan late on Aug. 10 after the initial results of the elections, adding that First Lady Hayrünnisa Gül also phoned Emine Erdoğan on the same night.

“I hope he will be successful,” Gül also said, adding that he did not want to comment on his plans for the upcoming AKP congress.

He dismissed questions as to whether he had ever been “offended” during his time in office. “I don’t deal with the past. The past is in the past ... What is right and natural is serving my nation,” Gül said.