Will Gül replace Erdoğan as PM?

As more and more indications suggest that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the most probable candidate for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the upcoming presidential elections, debate is ongoing about how President Abdullah Gül can switch places with Erdoğan.

According to a likely scenario, the resignation of an AK Party deputy may pave the way for Gül to take over the post of prime minister.

“There are two ways before us: the Bayburt model or a by-election,” Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah İşler said on the Kanal 7 television channel on Sunday night.

Bayburt is a province in northeastern Turkey that is represented by a single deputy in Parliament from the ruling AK Party. “The Bayburt model” İşler referred to would mean that deputy Bünyamin Özbek would resign to allow a by-election in the province. If a province has no representative in Parliament, then a by-election has to be held, according to the legislation, not to let that province go unrepresented in Parliament.

Gül first needs to be elected as a deputy, because only a deputy is eligible for the post of prime minister.

In a statement to the Habertürk daily on Monday, Özbek signaled that he would be ready to resign should his party decide to go ahead with such a scenario. According to the scenario, Gül, having presumably left his presidential post for Erdoğan, would run to become deputy of Bayburt in the by-election, thereby getting the ticket to become prime minister in the current AK Party government. Gül can bank on a relatively easy victory in Bayburt, as in the recent local elections the AK Party mayoral candidate got 52 percent of the vote.

In the presidential elections, the first round of which will be held on August 10, a president will be elected by popular vote for the first time. İşler, who said on Sunday that he believed Erdoğan would get strong support from the public if he ran for president, stated this about Gül’s position: “As our president is not currently a deputy, I believe he cannot immediately take over the post [of the prime ministry].”

Gül, who is also known to be considering running for president a second time, told reporters during his recent visit to Kuwait that neither he nor Erdoğan would take a step without informing the other. He also added that the issue would be clarified by the end of April or the beginning of May.

Mehmet Ali Şahin, deputy chairman of the ruling AK Party, has favored Erdoğan for the presidential race, saying, “We want our prime minister to run for president. He will look good in the [presidential] post.” Şahin also signaled on the CNN Türk television channel on Monday that Gül would be welcome in the ruling party after the end of his term as president. He said: “We would like to benefit from him. Many ways can be found for that.”

Erdoğan’s aspiration to become Turkey’s first popularly elected president is widely known, but he may still have some doubts about running for president due to the risks involved.

“There are no legal obstacles to implementing the Bayburt formula. If Erdoğan believed he was certain to be elected president, the Bayburt formula would be finalized, but there is no guarantee for that,” Engin Altay, the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman, has told Today’s Zaman.

As Turkish society is highly polarized and the ruling party took no more than 43 percent of the vote in the recently held local elections, Erdoğan risks not being elected president, even with support from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Altay maintained.

“It appears that Gül wants the Bayburt formula, which will prepare the ground for him to become prime minister, to be finalized,” said Altay, adding, “[But] before the formula for Gül to become prime minister is finalized, Erdoğan needs to make his mind up about the presidency.”

For Yusuf Halaçoğlu, parliamentary group deputy chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Erdoğan’s eventual candidacy for the presidency will involve serious risks for the prime minister and that is why the ruling party is having difficulty in making up its mind. The risk is that, because of a graft probe that became public in December of last year, Erdoğan may well be accused of corruption, as is the case for four former Cabinet ministers.

“When he [Erdoğan] runs for the presidency, he will be devoid of the immunity he enjoys as a deputy and prime minister. In the case that he cannot be elected president, it is a huge risk,” Halaçoğlu has told Today’s Zaman.



About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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