Gül era and expectations

In the Gül era, we will see a presidential palace interested in European countries, Islamic countries, the US, the Central Asian Turkic republics, the Pacific region, the EU and Turkey's neighbors along with all foreign policy issues that concern those re

Gül era and expectations
By Bülent Keneş, Today's Zaman

Last week, the first two rounds of the presidential election, embodying the new spirit of the July 22 elections, took place at Parliament. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) nominee, Abdullah Gül, received 341 votes in the first round and 337 in the second. But the overwhelming support did not suffice to make him president. He was not expected to be elected in the first rounds, anyway. He will most probably be elected in the third round, where only the support of an absolute majority -- 276 votes out of 550 -- is required. In the third round, to be held on Tuesday, Gül will assume the presidency and begin a new era in Çankaya.

Because it is almost certain that Gül will become president, the real issue that should be discussed at this point is what can be expected of the Gül's era in Çankaya.

Above all, we should note his election as president as the highest point of Turkish democracy. His election as a result of a controversial and difficult process that marks a turning point in a rapprochement between the state and the people.

Given that the future first lady is a veiled woman who has been denied higher education and entrance to venues considered to be in the public sphere, the current point reached is meaningful in terms of our democratic progress. In some respects, this resembles the story of Nelson Mandela, who came to office in South Africa after years of discrimination, apartheid and repression.

When looked at from this perspective, Hayrünnisa Gül's role as First Lady -- not Gül's election as president -- will be the most important sign of the normalization of Turkish democracy. I am sure this new development will contribute a great deal to the resolution of the headscarf issue, one of Turkey's most crucial problems.

Moreover, considering that Gül is a reformist and a democratic person, the presidency as the supreme organ of the Turkish state will be supportive of every move towards the improvement of Turkish democracy. We can easily say that a presidential palace that has confidence in Turkey's potential and strength and is free of Third World complexes will accelerate the pace of development of Turkish democracy and contribute to the country's economic progress and fulfillment of foreign policy goals.

With his background as an academic and practicing economist and the ability to comprehend the essentials and realities of the economy, Gül will be the leading actor in a new term, drastically different from the term led by Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Gül, who dedicated most of his political life to foreign policy and had a very successful term of four-and-a-half years as foreign minister, will make the presidential palace the new and strong focus of Turkish foreign policy in the coming era.

During the Gül era at the presidential palace in Çankaya, Turkish diplomacy will show substantial progress, and the weakness that has been prevalent at the summit of the state will be removed. In the new term Çankaya will have a determinative impact on the foreign policy establishment of the country. From now on, Turkish foreign policy will become stronger and more influential with effectively coordinated work between high-level political actors. Most probably the presidency will take the strongest role in the foreign policy game, where up until now the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Ministry have been more influential. The presidential palace, which has remained closed to the world and to the public over the previous seven years, will be opened to the world again, being transformed into an influential post that will have an impact on global developments.

In the Gül era, we will see a presidential palace interested in European countries, Islamic countries, the US, the Central Asian Turkic republics, the Pacific region, the EU and Turkey's neighbors along with all foreign policy issues that concern those regions.

We can even say that the state, with its institutions and actors, will keep up with the dynamism of the government of the last five years during the Gül Era. Of course, this will not happen without serious discussions in a country like Turkey, where a fragmented society and politics are prevalent. Is this not the best part of a democracy, anyway?
Last Mod: 27 Ağustos 2007, 09:41
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