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Vecdi Gönül

Presidential election: the candidates

Who is going to succeed Ahmet Necdet Sezer in two months’ time?

Vecdi Gönül
Vecdi Gönül

In less than a month from now, the process for the election of a new Turkish president gets underway. From Monday 16th April, MPs will have ten days to nominate their man for the top job. Elections to the post will take place in the twenty days that follow.

A candidate needs a two-thirds majority to win. If no one person receives that after the first two rounds, the winning threshold is dropped to a simple majority for the next. The ruling AK party doesn’t quite have two thirds of all the votes in parliament, but they do have a comfortable majority. Few commentators think the election itself will last more than three rounds.

It is perfectly clear how the president will be elected, but still not clear who. The AK majority makes it almost certain that one of their number will get the job. The party circulated an internal survery only last week asking members which party figure they would prefer as president. On the list were five cabinet members, including the prime minsiter, but two prominent members of the AK administration were absent.

So with the confusion reigning supreme, here’s my guide to a few of the many candidates to become Turkey’s 11th president:

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister, AKP — mooted for months as his party’s natural candidate. Would certainly be elected if he runs, but is very strongly opposed by Deniz Baykal’s CHP. Has also been urged by high-ranking members of his own party to serve another five years as prime minister.

Bülent Arınç, parliament speaker, AKP — At the centre of intense media speculation. He is something of an unofficial leader of the party’s more religious wing. Likely to face intense opposition from the military. Was noticably absent from the AKP’s internal survey.

Abdullah Gül, foriegn minister, AKP — A former (temporary) prime minister and number two in the government, he is more likely to be in the running for prime minister again if Mr Erdoğan becomes president. Noticably absent from the AKP internal survey.

Vecdi Gönül, defence minister, AKP — His portfolio puts him in daily contact with military figures, which could suggest an indirect way of being groomed for the job. His wife doesn’t wear a headscarf. Could be given illicit approval by the military. Present on the AKP internal survey. Serious contender.

Beşir Atalay, state minister, AKP — Also present on the AKP survey. His wife doesn’t wear the dreaded headscarf. Not a particularly remarkable figure.

Hikmet Çetin, former CHP leader and foreign minister — this blog’s candidate. Has kept something of a low profile recently. Unlikely candidate, as Bülent Arınç has said the next president will not be elected from outside parliament.

Ertuğrul Yalçınbayır, MP for Bursa, AKP — defected from Anavatan to the AKP in 2001. Endorsed by Anavatan leader Erkan Mumcu, who defected with him and then defected back. An outside possibility, perhaps?

Missing from this list is the main opposition CHP’s candidate. Deniz Baykal has been very vocal in who he doesn’t want to see as president – namely, Mr Erdoğan – but he’s been far quieter in who he does support. Mr Mumcu has urged him to co-operate in naming a joint opposition candidate, but there seems to be no sign of that happening yet.

Your comments are welcome.

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