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The Republic's presidency: between Erdogan and Gul

The battle over the presidency of the Turkish republic will be settled on its scheduled date in August as 300 deputy ministers from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have agreed to nominate and support the current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his race for presidency this year.

What this indicates is that if one left the presidency open to the House of Representatives to decide who the next president of the Republic of Turkey would be, then they would certainly choose Erdogan. However, changes in the election process leave the choice completely open for the people to decide. Yet, it is clear that many Turkish ministers place their confidence in Erdogan. As a result of this, it is difficult for anyone competing with Erdogan to garner a more popular image than the prime minister even when considering his latest competitor in the race, Erdogan’s friend and the current President Abdullah Gul who is concerned with saving his tarnished image.

It is here that we can begin to interpret Gul’s statement to the Turkish press, which came four months before the scheduled elections and before the AKP’s decision to nominate Gul’s colleague Erdogan as a presidential candidate, which was consistent with Erdogan’s decision to resign as prime minster in his attempt to win the presidency.

In his recent statement to the Turkish press, Gul said: “I have no plans to participate in any upcoming affairs considering the current circumstances.” Gul’s statement comes in response to, and in agreement with, the vote of confidence that Erdogan received from more than 300 deputy ministers that were elected by the people of their own free will. Gul’s statements also came as a response to the Turkish government’s initiatives and goals for the upcoming presidential elections.

As I have previously mentioned, the current atmosphere once again reminds us of the huge loss faced by the “fascist” opposition in the March 2014 elections, where they were defeated by the AKP despite their legal and illegal efforts to ensure a victory. The opposition attempted to promote propaganda in their efforts to win the municipal elections; however, they ultimately suffered a loss to the AKP. Yet, perhaps their biggest loss was in fact their decision to depict a false image of Turkish national security, including a negative depiction of the country’s judicial and security leaders.

The image of the upcoming Turkish elections is now crystal clear in that there appears to be no disagreement between Gul and Erdogan despite the fact that many people would wish for nothing more than this to happen.

In a recent meeting with a number of Turkish journalists during his recent trip to Kutahya, Gul made the following statement, “I have served the state at all levels of government and it has been my greatest honour to carry out these takes. However, I have no plans to get involved in any future governmental affairs given the current circumstances.”

One can assume that Gul’s statements suggest that he does not wish to participate in Turkish political life on any level after he has reached the highest post. Yet, this does not mean that Gul has announced his intention to officially retire from political life in general as there is a possibility that he could run for the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations. Not only could Gul potentially become the world’s first Muslim Secretary-General but he could move on to participate in politics on a much greater and global scale.

As for Erdogan, he intends to participate in free and fair elections and there is a large chance that he could win the popular vote on the first round, which means that he is likely to become the next president of Turkey. Erdogan’s popularity gives him room to practice his political powers fully; something that not all previous presidents had the power to doing. In fact, Erdogan was quoted just a few days ago as saying, “If I get to the presidential palace, I intend to use my powers in full.”

This statement serves as an indication that Erdogan is not only planning to assume the presidency ceremonially or as an honour, but he also intends to use his new position to advance his vision for the Turkish renaissance. Moreover, he would not be violating the AKP’s rule that no single politician can hold the same position in an office for more than three consecutive terms or election cycles.

In this way, Erdogan and the AKP succeeded in fostering a positive image in front of the Turkish public. They also managed to promote a positive image among the Arab public despite the media’s negative portrayal of the municipal elections and the AKP’s landslide victory in March 2014.

The road to democracy in Turkey is open and the elections will be free and fair and it will be a lesson for all third world countries and the countries of the Arab and Muslim world. Erdogan does not drop barrels of chemicals on his people to force them to vote for him but instead, he will respect the Turkish people’s decision. As for the Turkish opposition, they are now entering this new stage of elections with a new mentality and they are avoiding slander and lies. They have learnt that they must participate in these elections democratically, especially after they suffered such a great loss in the municipal elections.

The AKP has the responsibility of guiding the oppositional parties as they participate in the political process and they must open the way to victory for these parties as much as possible, even if it means risking the presidency. Even if they do not win the presidency, the AKP must help the opposition make new gains in the political arena and make significant gains in the parliament in order to promote strong and active political work next year.

It would not be a positive outcome for Turkey or the country’s future if only one party remained dominant in the government and in the political arena at large.

Translated from Al Jazeera net, 10 May 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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