Term row dismays President Gül, too

Term row dismays President Gül, too

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Term row dismays President Gül, too

CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu (R) calls on President Gül to block a bill hiking MP’s pensions. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

President Abdullah Gül has expressed frustration at the continued debate over the length of his term in office, urging politicians to make a swift decision on the matter.

“I won’t say anything about the length of my mandate. I hope very much that a decision on this is made in the shortest possible time because the situation is becoming awkward,” Gül said told the private Kanal 24 channel late Dec. 27.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said Gül’s mandate should be seven years – meaning that it would be exempted from constitutional amendments passed in 2007 reducing presidential terms to five years. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seen as the strongest contender to succeed Gül as head of state, and political pundits have suggested that Gül may return to the AKP helm and eventually become prime minister.

“I don’t have any political ambitions or expectations. There is nothing like that on my mind,” Gül said, but added that he did not believe in “retirement in life.”

He said he had served at every level in politics before the presidency. “It is obvious what I can do afterwards. I [participated in] politics and came here.” 

Gül also denied that he aspired to become the United Nations’ secretary-general.

Warning on rights breaches 

The president also voiced discomfort over lengthy pre-trial detentions and said Turkey’s international prestige could suffer over restrictions on free speech and media.

“As far as I can see, the detention periods have begun to hurt public sensitivities. A way must be definitely found to shorten them,” he said. “Those who have done wrong should be held accountable. But we cannot be at ease if anyone spends even half an hour in jail unjustly.”

Gül said democracy, human rights and free speech were at the core of Turkey’s “soft power” and progress made in recent years should not be overshadowed.

“I see that complaints are on the rise. I see some developments at the United Nations concerning human rights issues [in Turkey] that are not good. We have to prevent Turkey from falling among the countries with whom it should not be seen together,” he said.

PKK is being shown its place

Touching on the Kurdish issue, Gül said using “police-state methods” to combat the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its supporters would be “unthinkable,” but added that “authority in some provinces has been taken over by others.”

The PKK, he said, had the misconception that reforms expanding Kurdish freedoms came as a result of its violent campaign against the state.

“If the terror organization believes it is stronger and has the upper hand, it has to be shown that this is not the case. And this is what is happening at present,” he said, praising better coordination between the security forces against the PKK.

Gül said Turkey’s reform process had put civilian-military relations “on a democratic track” and that the military had now “pulled back to its area of responsibility.” 

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Sarkozy will be ignored

Commenting on tensions with France over a bill outlawing the denial of the 1915 events as genocide, Gül said he would ignore his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, the next time the two encounter each other in response to the latter’s refusal to speak about the issue by phone.
“He ignored me, so I will [ignore him],” he said.

France, the cradle of civil rights, has put itself in an awkward position “by punishing thoughts that contradict the official line of the sate,” Gül said. “It is incredible that they do this on account of petty political calculations.”

He said he hoped the bill, which was approved in the French Parliament’s lower house last week, would be stopped before reaching the Senate, and added that Turkish researchers should produce “credible” studies to counter Armenian allegations.

Turkey is not competing with France over regional influence, he also said. “Everybody must be happy if we use our regional power constructively.”