The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will nominate Abdullah Gül, the foreign minister and deputy prime minister, as the party's only presidential candidate.
Following a five-and-a-half-hour meeting held between the AK Party's three masterminds -- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Parliament Speaker Bülent Arınç and Gül himself -- senior party executives denied claims that the AK Party had three new presidential candidates.
"There isn't the slightest doubt about the candidacy of Gül; he is definitely our presidential candidate. We are not seeking any other candidate. Some groups are trying to create confusion in the minds of the people. We are not even discussing the candidacy of Gül, and we will elect him as president. Given the circumstances there can be no other candidate," said İrfan Gündüz, deputy chairman of the AK Party's parliamentary group.
Following the meeting between Erdoğan, Arınç and Gül, the party's strategy for the presidential election was clarified completely, according to backstage discussions in AK Party circles. Erdoğan stated that they would "wait for Gül's decision," and Gül later said at a press conference that he "cannot ignore the expectations of our rallying supporters" -- implying that he intends to maintain his bid for presidency and sees popular appeal of the party as an indicator of electoral approval for his candidacy.
During the meeting Erdoğan reportedly told Gül not to withdraw his candidacy. "You should not backtrack on this issue. The attitude the people displayed on July 22 deserves respect. The nation wants to see you as president. There can be no escape from this. We will do our best to ensure that you are elected [as president] in line with popular expectation," he said. Arınç, too, gave his support to Gül, observing that Gül's withdrawing of his candidacy would create disappointment among the grassroots of the AK Party. "Backtracking at this point means ignoring the will of the people who voted for us. This would be disrespectful of popular opinion," he reportedly said.
Salih Kapusuz, another deputy chairman of the AK Party's parliamentary group, confirmed that during the meeting the issues assessed were the presidential election, the election results and the new Cabinet. "Nobody should expect us to declare any presidential candidate other than Gül. This would not be an expectation with good intentions. The popular will has been well demonstrated. We had reiterated before the elections that our candidate is fixed irrespective of whether the president is elected by Parliament or by popular vote. The extent of the support voters gave to Gül is obvious. Nobody should expect us to disregard this [popular] will.
The crisis of April 27 cannot be attributable to Gül, but to those who construe laws narrowly. We are determined not to fuel the crisis. We did not create this crisis. The perpetrators of the crisis must pay respect to the popular will," he said.
Race will be for parliament speaker's office
During the meeting Erdoğan, Arınç and Gül also discussed the issues of the Cabinet's composition and the parliament speaker's office. Arınç reaffirmed his pre-election statement that he would not run for the speaker's office and they agreed to make radical changes to the Cabinet. Arınç removed his personal belongings from the speaker's room in Parliament. The party's top figures also determined that the AK Party's candidate for speaker should be decided with a vote in the party's parliamentary group. Erdoğan will reportedly convene 341 AK Party deputies and take applications from hopefuls before conducting the vote.
The AK Party intends to propose only one candidate for this office but may opt for two depending on those nominated by opposition parties. They are expected to resort to the one-candidate strategy so as to fend off any risk of intra-party fractures stemming from competition, political analysts suggest.
The most likely AK Party candidate for parliament speaker is former Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek. Having no connection to the National View ideology of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and having established good relations with many groups, Çiçek can elicit full support from the AK Party's parliamentary group. Köksal Toptan, the chairman of the parliamentary Justice Commission, and Mehmet Ali Şahin, a deputy prime minister, are other likely candidates for the office. Burhan Kuzu, the chairman of the parliamentary Constitutional Court, is not expected to be nominated on grounds that he may not impose discipline in Parliament. Abdülkadir Aksu, who resigned from his office as interior minister because of the elections, may be nominated if he is not included in the Cabinet, political analysts also suggest.
Another issue discussed during the meeting was that of the composition of the new Cabinet. It is said that Erdoğan's promises made during the election rallies to turn an empty page during the AK Party's second term apply to the Cabinet. During the meeting Erdoğan noted that the Cabinet should be completely overhauled. He also highlighted a need for shaping the Cabinet in line with popular expectations as demonstrated in the elections. Only Kemal Unakıtan, Binali Yıldırım, Ali Babacan, Beşir Atalay and Mehmet Ali Şahin are expected to remain in the new Cabinet. All other ministers may see a reshuffling, and two new women are expected to be commissioned.
Changes to party management and the parliamentary group
The three men also discussed changes to be made to party management and the parliamentary group. Erdoğan reportedly stated a need for reinforcement of the group management by assigning jurists and experts to the parliamentary group. Thus Eyüp Fatsa, Sadullah Ergin and İrfan Gündüz will most likely not be appointed as deputy chairmen again. Kapusuz is expected to be assigned to the Cabinet, while Faruk Çelik may continue to serve as the group's deputy chairman. It is rumored in party circles that two names from party leadership will be assigned to the Cabinet. Hayati Yazıcı, the deputy chairman in charge of local organizations, and Edibe Sözen are most likely the names to be appointed ministers from the party management. Sözen is expected to be one of two women ministers in the Cabinet.
Last Mod: 03 Ağustos 2007, 19:11