Toptan's election paves way for Gül's presidency

Toptan's nomination was seen as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's effort to attenuate possible reactions to the presidential candidacy of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül.

Toptan's election paves way for Gül's presidency

Former center-right politician Köksal Toptan, nominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Wednesday, has been elected Turkey's new parliament speaker, receiving 450 votes out of a total of 535 in the first round of voting.

His only contender, Tunca Toskay, put forward by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), received 74 votes.

Toptan's nomination was seen as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's effort to attenuate possible reactions to the presidential candidacy of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül. In remarks interpreted as support for Gül's eventual election as president, Erdoğan said yesterday during a visit to congratulate Toptan on his election that democracy "does not allow one to put the nation's will aside."

Gül had earlier signaled he would remain a presidential candidate, saying he could not turn a blind eye to the people's will shown in the July 22 election, which gave the AK Party a resounding victory. "The more power the nation gives to a party, the more representation power that party owns," Erdoğan said yesterday, emphasizing that democracy is not about the "imposition of the minority's will on the majority."

Toptan's candidacy united almost all parties in Parliament. The fact that opposition parties are all warm to Toptan, a former True Path Party (DYP) politician, is a sign of Erdoğan seeking greater consensus, as he promised to do ahead of the July 22 elections. By nominating Toptan for the second top state post, Erdoğan has also paved the way for Gül's presidency, political analysts say. İstanbul deputy Mehmet Domaç concurred that Toptan's nomination has facilitated Gül's presidential candidacy. "This is what we hope. Mr. Gül deserves to be president, but such steps must be taken in order to remove the roadblocks before him," he said.

Although Erdoğan's move is considered in AK Party circles a sign of his determination to nominate Gül for a place in the Çankaya Palace, there are also weak claims that Erdoğan may make a surprise move by nominating a deputy whose wife does not wear a headscarf for the presidency.

However this is not considered an appropriate move by majority of the AK Party deputies. Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal said yesterday before the vote for parliament speaker that he would support Toptan's candidacy but called on the AK Party to follow the same path in the election of the president, a veiled call for the nomination of a person free of an Islamic past, like Toptan. To avert criticism that three top positions of the state would be assumed by people coming from the Islamic National View ideology, Erdoğan nominated a center-right figure, Toptan, for the second most senior post in state hierarchy. The fact that Toptan's wife does not wear a headscarf is apparently a key reason why CHP lent him its support.

"I don't think there will be any presidential candidate other than Gül. Irrespective of how some groups see Toptan's nomination, the nation gave us the message in the July 22 elections that we should not waver from Gül's candidacy. Our determination continues in this respect. The AK Party has embraced the social center. It would wrong to assess the members of this party with respect to their background," Salih Kapusuz, the deputy chairman of the AK Party's parliamentary group, told Today's Zaman.

Toptan's nomination is also considered a sign of the AK Party's shift toward the center right in the party's management after their reorientation for the July 22 elections. AK Party Adana deputy Ömer Çelik, speaking to Today's Zaman, said: "Toptan's nomination should not be confused with other matters. This party is now a center party. It is operating according to the responsibilities of a center party."

Why Toptan?

Erdoğan decided to nominate Toptan after meeting with AK Party deputies and executives. The prime minister handed out questionnaire forms to 50 members of the party's Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), asking them their preferences with respect to the posts of parliament speaker and the party's parliamentary group leaders. Former Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek, Toptan and Ülkü Güney were the names receiving the most votes.

During the intervals between meetings of the MKYK and the Central Executive Board (MYK), Erdoğan, Gül and former Parliament Speaker Bülent Arınç convened to discuss the developments. After a final meeting with Gül, Erdoğan decided to announce Toptan's nomination, and MYK members applauded his nomination, expressing their support.

The Erdoğan-Arınç-Gül trio convened again yesterday following the election of Toptan, but there was no statement after the meeting.

Toptan's portrait

Although Toptan's political career started at the Justice Party (AP) he, just like Erdoğan, participated in the National Turkish Students Association. Influenced as Erdoğan was by Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, he published poems in reputable poetry journals when he was a student. Born in Rize in 1943, Toptan was educated in Zonguldak, a mining city characterized by activist miners. Toptan entered the faculty of law at İstanbul University in 1962 and after that was in the same intellectual atmosphere as Erdoğan and other politicians from the National View ideology. While he participated in activities organized by the National Turkish Students Association, he started his active political career in the youth wing of the AP. After graduation Toptan worked as a lawyer in Zonguldak and also assumed positions at the AP's local organization. He became a Zonguldak deputy from the AP in 1977.

On Nov. 12, 1979, he was appointed as a state minister in the Süleyman Demirel government, a post he held until the military coup of Sept. 12, 1980. Banned from politics, Toptan started to work as a lawyer and even represented Demirel, who was also banned from political activity. He became famous winning all the cases in which he defended Demirel. In 1983 he took an active role in the establishment of the DYP, then led by Hüsamettin Cindoruk, and entered Parliament for a second time as a Zonguldak deputy in the interim elections held on Sept. 28, 1986. In the 1991 elections he became a deputy from Bartın and then was appointed education minister. During his term he introduced innovative projects such as open high schools and student transfers from the Turkic republics. However, due to a scandal associated with the Primary School Teachers Health and Social Assistance Fund (İLKSAN) during his time as minister, he parted ways with Demirel.

After Demirel was elected president in 1993, he competed with Tansu Çiller for leadership of the DYP but was defeated and resigned from his post as education minister. In 1995 he served as culture minister and was re-elected as a Bartın deputy in the general elections held in December of that year. In the 1999 general elections Toptan was unable to enter Parliament but began to work as the chairman of a foundation promoting Turkey.

Before the 2002 elections he was invited by Erdoğan to the AK Party, was elected as a deputy from Zonguldak and was appointed chairman of the parliamentary Justice Commission, where he helped draft the new Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Before Gül was first nominated for the presidency, his name was frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for that post. He was hospitalized at the hour when Gül's candidacy was announced and it was rumored backstage that Toptan's illness could be attributed to his disappointment about not being nominated.

Toptan has one child who suffers from a disability, and his wife is a former judge with the Supreme Court of Appeals. During his term as education minister, Toptan conducted appreciable work related to disabilities and encouraged the opening of numerous rehabilitation centers. Toptan's wife, Saime Toptan, is the chairwoman of the Turkish Training and Solidarity Foundation for the Disabled.

Toptan: Now I see all parties and deputies as my own

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the first to congratulate Toptan following his election with a record number of votes, with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli and CHP leader Deniz Baykal quick to follow his lead. This occasion served as an opportunity for Bahçeli and Erdoğan to come closer and shake hands for the first time in Parliament. Delivering a touching speech after his election as parliament speaker, Toptan said: "I am a deputy of the AK Party. But now I count all parties are my own and all deputies as my own. My goal is not to disappoint those who have faith in me. This is the greatest happiness for me. One hour ago, my grandson Doruk Köksal was born. Today, I feel very lucky." This speech received enthusiastic applause from deputies. Acting Parliament Speaker Şükrü Elekdağ then officially handed over the post to Toptan. Parliament will today hold elections for the parliamentary general administrative board, after which the schedule for the presidential election will be announced.

Today's Zaman

Last Mod: 10 Ağustos 2007, 15:08
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