Erdoğan eyeing presidency, feeling 'pulses,' Gül bitter İlnur Çevik With the Supreme Election Board (YSK) declaring the calendar for the presidential elections, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has intensified his pulse feeling activities among his party hierarchy on whether he should become a candidate for the presidency or if he should remain as prime minister.
The YSK has declared Aug. 10 as the date for the first round of the presidential elections, and if a second round is needed it will be on Aug. 24.
Prime Minister Erdoğan first met with 24 deputies from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and held a mini survey where 20 deputies urged him to become a candidate for the presidency. The deputies also felt that the party rule that limits the election of AK Party people as parliamentarians and other elected positions with three terms should be lifted.
The deputies also welcomed the creation of five-seat electoral districts for the parliamentary elections next year.
The prime minister also held an expanded meeting of his provincial chairmen on Friday and is also trying to feel the pulse of the top echelons of the AK party as well as its grassroots.
So the prime minister is looking at the pros and cons of becoming a candidate for the presidency and eventually becoming the head of state. However, he said during the week that he would not be a president like former presidents, as he will have the power of the people behind him as a person directly elected by the nation.
He said he would use all the presidential powers to the hilt. That means, if elected, Erdoğan will wield power unlike any other president in the past and will want full loyalty and obedience from the government.
So it is clear that while the prime minister is seeking to feel the pulse of his party cadres, he is also making calculations of whether he can have an AK Party parliamentary group and a cabinet fully loyal to him. Thus, who becomes prime minister is important.
If Erdoğan does become president, his prime minister will have to be someone in the current parliamentary group and thus an elected person according to the constitution. There is already gossip that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is being groomed for this position. In that case there is also talk that outgoing President Abdullah Gül may become the chairman of the AK Party. However, President Gül on Friday clearly wanted to put an end to all speculations and said he does not have any future political plans. This seems to suggest if Erdoğan does not become a candidate for the presidency Gül will not object to seek another five year term as head of state, but if Erdoğan wishes to be a candidate for the presidency then Gül will not seek to become prime minister or party chairman in the future.
Gül said he has served in all top posts of the state (as foreign minister, prime minister and president).
Gül's statement and his tone also seemed to suggest that he is not very happy with widespread talk that Erdoğan has a right to become president. Earlier last week Gül's annoyance came to the surface when he pointed out that the election of Erdoğan or anyone else is not a foregone conclusion.
Just as Gül was making his statement during a visit to Kütahya on Friday that he does not have future political plans, Prime Minister Erdoğan was telling AK Party provincial chairmen and deputies that he would meet Gül to discuss the presidential issue.
With or without Gül's blessing, Erdoğan, with popular support of about 45 percent, remains the leading potential candidate to become president.
However, there is talk that Erdoğan may need the Kurdish votes of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) to win more than 50 percent of the votes, but that may be a frustrating prospect for him as the Kurds are already showing signs of driving a hard bargain like demanding solid steps for the eventual release of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Erdoğan may not want to antagonize his own Central Anatolian conservative voters who are highly hostile to Öcalan's release in any form.
Besides all this there is also the fact that despite being the people's president Erdoğan as prime minister has to decide whether he can run the country more effectively in Çankaya at the presidential palace or as the boss of the cabinet.
If the opposition, which is usually in disarray, manages to forge some kind of understanding and come up with a joint candidate, the prime minister may have a rough ride but still win.
So Erdoğan has to balance out several factors and decide in early May what he wants to do.