Ex-President Gul closes door on possible return to AK Party

ISTANBUL: Former President Abdullah Gul said on Friday he has no intention of running for Parliament in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“I currently have no plans in this regard,” Gul told reporters asking about the prospects of his return to politics. “I will not be in active politics at this stage.”

Gul said he will continue to use his political experience in the service of the Turkish state and the nation but added that one does not have to actively be in politics to do so.

His remarks follow a series of statements from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and key government figures indicating the likelihood of Gul’s return to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Erdogan said on March 6 that it would be “fitting” if Gul returned to politics. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Gul, a co-founder of the AK Party, does not even need an invitation if he is willing to return to the party.

Gul said statements and media reports about his possible candidacy for Parliament are “beyond my knowledge” and denied having discussions about the issue “with friends,” apparently referring to Erdogan and senior AK Party officials.

Like Erdogan, Gul is a co-founder of the ruling AK Party. He left his post as president in August 2014 and was succeeded by Erdogan, who became the first Turkish president to be directly elected.

Rumors of a rivalry between Erdogan and Gul emerged when the former president indicated his willingness to return to politics representing the AK Party. The AK Party administration, however, closed the doors to Gul, scheduling a party convention that could have been an opportunity for Gul to join the party just a few days before he was due to officially hand over the post to Erdogan.

The possibility of Gul’s return to the AK Party has raised questions on how the power balances within the AK Party would change. Apparently concerned by prospects that he might replace Davutoglu as prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said again on March 6 that Davutoglu will remain prime minister after the June 7 parliamentary elections but added that Gul should be given a senior position, preferably the largely symbolic post of parliament speaker.