Who will be the next president?

Yet there are news reports indicating that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, in an effort to avoid a new confrontation with the bureaucratic establishment, is trying to persuade Gül to step down.

Who will be the next president?
By İhsan Dağı, Today's Zaman

Ambiguities continue as to the question of who will be the next president. The election results of July 22 clearly point to Abdullah Gül who, in a press conference after the election, stated that the choice of the people had to be respected.
From this it is understood that Gül remains as a presidential candidate.

Yet there are news reports indicating that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, in an effort to avoid a new confrontation with the bureaucratic establishment, is trying to persuade Gül to step down.

Some argue that if Gül is elected president a political talent will be lost, so he should serve as an active member of the new Cabinet. They certainly have a point. Especially with the promised constitutional amendments the presidency will turn into a symbolic place lacking any real political or even bureaucratic leverage. A political leader such as Gül, it may be argued, deserves a better post. But, as Bülent Keneş explained the other day, a President Gül would certainly be active in the conduct of Turkish foreign policy, going well beyond mere representation. With his experience in foreign affairs and friendship with world leaders, the post of the presidency under Gül is likely to match the government's active, assertive and high-level foreign policy.

Notwithstanding his contribution to Turkey's global standing, my feeling is that Gül has been under pressure from various circles -- including some in his own party -- to step down as a candidate for the presidency. This was the reason he hastily organized a press conference after the elections declaring that his position has not changed.

If he yields to these pressures it will be very difficult to explain the decision to the people who, in order to enable the party to elect Gül as president, voted for the AK Party. After all was this not the promise in the election campaign? Many voted for the AK Party because of the way in which its presidential candidate, Gül, was treated by the judicial and military bureaucracy aligning with the CHP.

If Gül decides or is persuaded to step down, the people who voted for the AK Party will certainly feel betrayed. Such a move will also be interpreted by the people as giving in to the pressure of the judiciary and the military, damaging their trust in democratic institutions and processes. Not just the general public but also those in the civilian and military bureaucracy will think it was the power of the Kemalist state elite that prevented Gül from becoming president despite the power of the people.

Even if Gül steps down for various reasons, refusing to be a symbolic president but choosing instead to be an active political figure within the party and the government, this will not change the perception by the bureaucratic establishment. The government, the party and even the AK Party's parliamentary majority will be seen as having yielded to the pressures of the Kemalist bureaucracy. From then on it will be difficult for the new AK Party government to rule this country, as the Kemalist bureaucracy will think of itself as the real power broker. As a result, contrary to the expectations that the election results will restore and consolidate democracy, the power of the bureaucracy will be strengthened in the coming period. Bureaucratic actors will rightly think that even a political party with 47 percent popular support is subject to the veto power of the bureaucracy.

In short, it is too late for Gül to declare his withdrawal or for the party to try to persuade Gül to back down, simply because it will mean yielding to the pressures of the military. Such a decision will also render the April 27 military e-memo a military coup that has re-ordered Turkish politics despite the election results.

Will the AK Party act as if the July 22 elections never took place? Well, maybe. But if it does, there will not be another 47 percent.
Last Mod: 09 Ağustos 2007, 09:40
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