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.