President’s Office denies reports of Gul-ErdoIan meeting over election

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- The Presidential Press Office has denied reports that President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan have had talks about which of them will run for president in the upcoming election, while revealing that such a get-together will take place in the near future.

“Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister have so far never had any discussion on the presidential election process and [political] developments that may ensue [after the presidential election]. [But] in the near future, there will be a meeting in which these issues will be discussed [between the two leaders],” said Ahmet Sever, chief press aisor to the president, Turkish media reported late on Tuesday afternoon. The scenarios expressed in some news reports do not reflect the truth, Sever also said.

With only four months to go until the election, various scenarios have so far been put forward about what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and incumbent President Abdullah Gul will do about the race.

According to the Radikal daily, ErdoIan and Gul have agreed that the prime minister will run for president while Gul will run for chairman of the ruling party in the party congress after leaving office.

“ErdoIan wants to run for president and Gul is offering his support to ErdoIan, saying, ‘That’s your right’,” Eyup Can, editor-in-chief of the daily, said in his column on Tuesday.

In the upcoming presidential election, Turkey will for the first time elect a president by popular vote. The candidate who obtains more than half of the votes in the first round of the election, which is to be held on Aug. 10, 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.

an does not expect it to be long before the public is informed about ErdoIan’s candidacy as the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party)andidate. “The Çankaya issue [within the ruling party] will be settled by early May at the latest,” Can said.

an maintained in his column that there were no clashes between the two leaders about who will run for president and that the picture about the ruling party’s candidate became a little clearer following a meeting between ErdoIan and Gul last week.

Though Radikal’s editor-in-chief made a point of leaving a margin of error in his assessment, noting that decisions in politics can swiftly change depending on new developments, Can said based on information he had received: “For one thing, those who expect ErdoIan and Gul to be involved in a clash due to the presidential election are just daydreaming. ErdoIan and Gul have reached a consensus about who will be posted to Çankaya [presidential palace].”

Based on Can’s scenario, Gul, who will leave the presidential office after completing his term in August, is determined to return to politics in the ranks of the ruling party. Noting that Gul has also communicated this to ErdoIan, Can said Gul has expressed that he has no intention of leaving the reform process launched to democratize Turkey unfinished.

“For this reason, he is preparing to hand over the post of president-elect and fight for the AK Party chairmanship at the party’s extraordinary congress which will take place in September or October.”

Should ErdoIan win the upcoming presidential election, his term as prime minister and chairman of the AK Party will come to an end. As for Gul, as he is not a deputy, he will not be able to immediately serve as prime minister. According to Can, Gul places more importance on being elected chairman of the ruling party than taking over as prime minister.

“Getting elected as chairman of the AK Party through his own efforts will pave the way to the post of prime minister. If he cannot control the party, he knows very well he will not be able to serve as a ‘strong and executive prime minister’ vis-à-vis the new president, who was elected by popular vote,” Can said.

It is for this reason, Can maintained, that Gul is focused on the AK Party congress while ErdoIan is busy making plans finding a way into the Çankaya presidential palace.

At the ruling party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, ErdoIan seemed to be a little worried that some audio recordings which would put him in a difficult position should he run for president might be leaked over the Internet, as was the case during the alleged corruption in the government revealed by a graft investigation in December of last year.

Describing, in his usual way, the graft investigation of Dec. 17 as a plot against the government, ErdoIan said, “Those who resort to formerly used scenarios will receive a proper response from the people.”

ErdoIan, who noted that electing presidents in Turkey has always been a thorny issue in the past, vowed that they would not allow the presidential election to be transformed into a crisis.

Even if ErdoIan and Gul agree on the presidential race, some tension may well surface all the same between the two leaders should Can’s scenario materialize.

As the president will be elected by popular vote, ErdoIan, should he emerge victorious in the race, is expected to act like an executive president, something which will surely disturb Gul.

“This is because Gul believes in [] the parliamentary system and a prime minister as head of the executive,” Can said. “For this reason, [Gul] is against ErdoIan directing the AK Party from behind the scenes should he settle into Çankaya,” Can added.

According to Can, Gul expects ErdoIan, whose path to Çankaya he cleared without any negotiations or clashes, to cut off his official ties with the party. “Otherwise, Gul will put up a fight for chairman against whoever it may be at the AK Party’s extraordinary congress,” Can said.

A report that appeared in the Taraf daily on the same day also said it would be ErdoIan, and not Gul — who has the right to run for a second time — who will run for president. According to the most probable scenario, the daily maintained, Ahmet DavutoIlu, the current foreign minister, will serve as prime minister in the transitional period, during which Gul will not be able to take over as prime minister, should ErdoIan emerge victorious in the election race.

After the general elections, which should be held next June, Gul will take over as prime minister, the Taraf daily maintained. As opposed to the current situation, the person chairing the AK Party and the one serving as prime minister will be different in the period after ErdoIan, according to the daily.

Numan KurtulmuI, who is currently serving as deputy chairman of the ruling party, will serve as chairman of the party after Gul is elected as deputy and takes over the post of prime minister.

“It is being said that, in this way, ErdoIan wants to maintain control over the party,” the Taraf daily maintained. According to the daily, snap elections at the end of the year are also being considered as a possibility by the ruling party.

The dates of the upcoming presidential election have been finalized as Aug. 10 and Aug. 24, with the Supreme Election Board’s (YSK) decision about the poll published in the Official Gazette on Tuesday.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)