Gul says candidacy in presidential election not yet settled

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- In response to recently circulated rumors that President Abdullah Gul would agree to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan’s candidacy for the upcoming presidential election, Gul has signaled that the issue of selecting a presidential candidate within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has not yet been settled.

“Nobody [in the AK Party] should think at the moment that this [candidacy] is in my pocket,” the president told reporters on Wednesday.

It was claimed by some outlets in the Turkish media on Tuesday that in a meeting with ErdoIan last week, Gul, who is also from the ruling party, had agreed to the prime minister running for president in the upcoming election.

Noting that it is the people who, in the final analysis, will decide who gets elected president, Gul said during a press meeting at the Çankaya presidential palace: “I said [earlier] that we would take the issue up with the prime minister. We will soon take it up. This is, of course, an issue about us. Some other candidates should also appear.

“What I think [on the issue] will also certainly be important,” the president added.

In some media reports, Gul was claimed to have ceded to ErdoIan for candidacy and that he would fight, after leaving office in August, for the ruling party’s chairmanship in an extraordinary party congress expected to be held in September or October. Based on the scenario, Gul would then first get elected deputy in the general elections scheduled to be held in June next year and prime minister, should the AK Party emerge victorious as expected.

Ruling party to determine presidential candidate toward end of May

The ruling party announced on Wednesday the party’s candidate would be determined towards the end of May after carefully measuring the public opinion and the party’s delicate balances.

The same day, Prime Minister ErdoIan was at the AK Party headquarters in the capital, in the first intra-party deliberations and extensive debates with the party’s deputies over the presidential election to be held in August. The party said it will hold a series of party meetings over its candidate, while Prime Minister ErdoIan was poised to make his decision whether to run or not in the presidential race.

In the meeting that nearly lasted three hours, AK Party deputies were handed a form in which they were asked to write down the names of three people whom they would desire to run for president.

AK Party deputy Iamil Tayyar said mobile phones of the deputies were collected before the meeting, the Yeni Iafak daily web page reported. “Such [intra-party] consultations will continue. The prime minister will make up his mind following deliberations with delegates, mayors [of the party] and non-governmental organizations,” Tayyar added.

The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) signaled that the party may come up with a presidential candidate of its own in the first round of the presidential election to be held on August 10. Co-chairwoman of the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) Sebahat Tuncel recently said the HDP, with which the BDP is expected to merge into a single party in May, has a tendency to nominate its own presidential candidate.
In a recent statement, the BDP group deputy chairman, Pervin Buldan, said the BDP is yet to decide whether to support the AK Party candidate in the second round of the presidential election. “I believe, the steps we will take are related to the steps the government will take [in connection with the settlement process],” Buldan said. “Kurds’ votes [for AK Party’s candidate] should not be taken for granted,” she added.

In the presidential race in which Turkey will for the first time elect a president by popular vote, BDP voters’ support is crucial for ErdoIan, whose AK Party got 43 percent of the votes in the local elections at the end of March.

The candidate who obtains more than half of the votes in the first round of the election will be elected president. If none of the candidates manage to obtain more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, then the two candidates with the most votes in the first round will compete in a runoff. The candidate who receives the most votes in the second leg will be elected president and serve a five-year term.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)