The latest decree with the force of law shielding civilians from prosecution has brought into the open the gap that has existed for some time between the eleventh President Abdullah Gül and AKP management. With Gül’s name also beginning to figure in calculations over 2019, President Tayyip Erdoğan has made express reference in the media to this gap for the first time. President Erdoğan has until now acted differently towards to Gül as opposed to those of the party’s founding figures who have by now adopted a critical stance. A number of figures have recently been forced to join founding figure Abdüllatif Şener in parting ways with the party. For his part, Bülent Arınç, who has remained in the party despite adopting a critical position, has come in for some stick from Erdoğan, referring to him as “that individual.” These people who criticise the party and its policies have come in for some occasional rough treatment from the pro-regime media.
Gül was the exception
Over this entire process, Erdoğan and the AKP management have treated eleventh President Abdullah Gül differently. The approach adopted in reaction to the criticisms he made once in a while, even if indirectly, was to refrain from replying through the media. Erdoğan in particular always refrained from making comments targeting Gül. However, Gül’s criticism, “It is worrying and must be corrected” of the latest decree with the force of law has led the AKP management to change its tone. Erdoğan replied directly to Gül through the media. It is said that this change in tone within the AKP towards the first president the party installed does not originate solely from disagreement over the latest decree with the force of law, and calculations over 2019 lie behind the scenes. The talk in the lobbies about this is as follows:
What is troubling Gül: Gül had for a long time spoken to people from the party who visited him of the need to return the party to its settings at the time of its founding. He had been telling them that when they founded the AKP it had had an important place as a conservative democratic party in respected top-level circles throughout the world, and it was losing this bit by bit through its current policies. In particular, he set out his criticism in four points. First, the danger of moving away from and falling outside the international system. Second, practices that will be deemed regression in the field of freedom of thought and expression. Third, concerns over the independence of the judiciary and trust in the judiciary. And, fourth, negativities arising from the lack of adequate balancing and supervision mechanisms accompanying the transition to the presidential system.
Prospects for 2019: In addition to these assessments that Gül has given to those who visit him, his non-attendance at any of the party’s activities has also increased the gap between them. The inclusion, following the April referendum, of Gül’s name by certain milieus among candidates for 2019 has brought matters to an even more critical head. This has led to the interpretation in the AKP that Gül “has for some time not acted like a party member, has moved away from the party and is engaging in postures and activities that will enhance his standing among circles seeking a candidate for 2019.” Erdoğan’s latest demeanour towards Gül is seen as being part of this whole picture.
It stressed by polling organisations within the AKP and close to the AKP that Erdoğan is the clear leader in terms of AKP voters’ support. However, when a second name apart from Erdoğan is asked for, this name is indisputably said to be Abdullah Gül. The continued serious support that Gül has in the AKP base is animating the discussion relating to calculations over 2019.
AKP around forty per cent
The most recent polls put the AKP in the 39-40 per cent band, its share of the vote on 7 June. As to the MHP’s electoral support, this is said to be between 5-7 per cent. As such, the first round appears to be a tough call given the need for 50+1 and, the upshot being that all calculations will be made with the second round in mind, there are concerns Gül may be fielded by the opposition within the AKP with an eye on the second round.
Erdoğan and Gül: Ever widening gap