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Abdullah Gül

Now we know – again

The AK Party nominates the same man again for president

Abdullah Gül
Abdullah Gül

The AK Party nominates the same man again for president

Abdullah Gül has just been announced as the AK party’s candidate for president again. As anyone who has read anything about Turkey over the last few months will know, he was nominated by his party for the post in April and had to pull out after the most controversial presidential election in Turkish history.

Unlike last time, this nomination comes from the AK party’s executive committee, and not the prime minister himself. One of Mr Erdoğan’s greatest mistakes last time was to stubbornly keep his choice of candidate secret until the last minute. He announced it a few hours before nominations closed, not even giving his party a chance to digest the news. This time, the party sat down and talked about whether it worth putting Mr Gül forward again. That is a good thing.

Also unlike last time, it seems Mr Gül might have some opposition support. Cihan Paçacı, Secretary-General of the National Action Party (MHP), has said in the last few minutes that he does not “expect a crisis over the nomination”. This is not to say the MHP will be voting for Mr Gül, but they have decided to turn up and push attendance over that crucial 367 figure. That would be enough to elect him.

Mr Gül is off canvassing tomorrow, beginning in the morning with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. He is also likely to visit the main opposition CHP and the Democratic Left Party, although both have already said they do not support him. CHP leader Deniz Baykal has described the MHP’s decision to attend the vote as “surprising”; Mr Bahçeli countered by saying: “What would our next move be if we did not attend and made it impossible to have an election? We cannot support using crisis and uncertainty to deal in politics.” He is absolutely right.

The process is like last time: the first two rounds are on August 20th and 24th, where a candidate needs 367 votes to win. The next two rounds are on August 28th and September 1st, when a candidate requires just a simple majority. Under the precendent set by April’s abortive election, there also needs to be at least 367 MPs casting votes for the round to be valid.

AK has a large enough majority to elect Mr Gül on August 28th, provided the MHP comes to watch. But with 340 seats (minus the speaker), they are 25 votes short of electing him in an earlier round. That gap could be easily bridged with MHP support. Another less likely option would be to cobble together the twenty seats of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party with independents and rebels from other parties. Most likely is that Mr Gül will become president in the third round.

The media in Turkey and abroad will probably interpret the renomination as AK defiance in the face of the CHP and the army. That isn’t the way I look at it. But the question that far fewer people seem to be asking is whether Abdullah Gül would make a good president. He is a capable man, aware of the country’s institutions, and is certainly no-one’s puppet. He is the Foreign Ministry’s loss.

The answer is yes.