Gul tells Er­do­gan he’s still in the game

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The first thing that Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Tayyip Er­do­gan did af­ter get­ting elected as the coun­try’s 12th pres­i­dent on Sun­day was to call the rul­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party’s (AK Party) main ex­ec­u­tive body for a meet­ing on Mon­day.

His plan was sim­ple: Er­do­gan wants to de­sign his party and the govern­ment be­fore he of­fi­cially takes over the pres­i­dency from Ab­dul­lah Gul on Au­gust 28.

De­spite spec­u­la­tions about the need for a high­pro­file name to suc­ceed him in order to change the Con­sti­tu­tion to in­tro­duce a strong-pres­i­den­tial regime - in­stead of the cur­rent par­lia­men­tary one - Er­do­gan now has changed pri­or­i­ties.

He mainly has two cri­te­ria for the new AK Party chair­man who will also lead the govern­ment as prime min­is­ter:

1- To work in har­mony with the pres­i­dent and not at­tempt to steal his role,

2- To carry the party suc­cess­fully through to the next par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, sched­uled for June 2015.

It is true that many in the AK Party think Gul is the best op­tion both for keep­ing the party to­gether and also for keep­ing it in power. But Gul is a strong name with a high in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic pro­file, which would not re­main silent and in the shad­ows.

The AK Party will any­way need a new chair­man, as Er­do­gan has to leave the post by Au­gust 28. It would also help to ex­clude Gul’s name from the list, be­cause ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion, the prime min­is­ter has to be a mem­ber of par­lia­ment. That would be a use­ful side ef­fect in Er­do­gan’s power game.

But Gul has made it clear that he is not plan­ning to re­tire from pol­i­tics af­ter com­plet­ing his term as pres­i­dent, telling a group of re­porters right in the mid­dle of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing meet­ing in the AK Party that it would be nat­u­ral for him to re­turn to the party that he was a co-founder of.

This was like a “Re­mem­ber, I am still in the game” mes­sage to the meet­ing chaired by Er­do­gan.

The an­swer from the meet­ing came in just an hour, from party spokesman Huseyin Ce­lik: They had de­cided to hold the congress to elect a new chair­man (thus to be given of­fice to form a Cabi­net by Er­do­gan right af­ter Au­gust 28) a day be­fore the of­fi­cial han­dover cer­e­mony; with the congress to be held on Au­gust 27.

Ce­lik was go­ing on the record by wel­com­ing Gul’s de­ci­sion, but the party’s de­ci­sion was telling Gul that it would not be pos­si­ble for him to lead the party and the govern­ment - at least for now, maybe later. The new chair­man and prime min­is­ter would now be picked by Er­do­gan. Gul’s move came at an un­ex­pected time for Er­do­gan, just as he was cel­e­brat­ing his vic­tory as Turkey’s first ever pres­i­dent to be elected by pop­u­lar vote. Gul has re­minded Er­do­gan that de­spite his 51% sup­port, there are still po­lit­i­cal and le­gal bal­ances that he has to watch. He also gave a strong mes­sage to Er­do­gan that the win­ner can­not take all, at least not al­ways. It is a fact that Gul has sup­port­ers in the AK Party who are not happy at all with the one-man-rule at­ti­tude of Er­do­gan. Gul has also told them that there might be al­ter­na­tives if the doors of the AK Party’s di­rec­tion room are shut to them.

There are al­ways sur­prises in Turk­ish pol­i­tics.

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