Presidential election: the candidates

Who is going to succeed Ahmet Necdet Sezer in two months’ time?
Vecdi Gönül
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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  1. Hikmet Cetin would do it beautifully IMO, too. Though I am for strict separation of church and state, I am not opposed to Erdogan, Arinc, or Gul on religious grounds. Erdogan’s name has become too tainted or divisive for the post; I don’t know Arinc too well; and Gul should still have good mileage in him to do good in the executive branch. Actually, another AKP government under president Cetin (a mild-mannered, experienced and respected Kurd! who can struck a conciliatory tone with various pullers-away) might be the best bet for the country. And it is questionable if AKP would remain to win the next election should Erdogan “retire to Cankaya.”

    A couple of weeks ago, there was mention in the press that Erdogan might have a surprise up in his sleeve. “Maybe a woman,” we were hinted. Ah, I thought, that’d be good, too. Maybe Guler Sabanci, I mused. Why not? Young, dynamic, energetic, no political baggage. Little experience with the state machinery, but that might be an asset… who knows…

  2. I think it is pretty much certain that the AKP will win the November elections, regardless of whether the prime minister becomes president. The party is riding high in the polls, it has had the most successful term for a Turkish government in recent memory, and the opposition is scrambling to curb, not overcome, the AKP’s dominance.

    Rather than whether the AKP will win, I think it’s questionable whether they will be able to form a single-party government. I read an interesting series of hypotheses in Ismet Berkan’s column today talking about the possibility of coalition government with the DYP or (gasp) the Kurdish DTP.

    Güler Sabancı’s a fantastic idea. Such a pity that the assets you list – youth, dynamism, a lack of political baggage – are the precise reasons why she won’t become president.

  3. Yep, by win, I meant to say, win as a single party. And Guler Sabanci thing was/is not something likely to happen. I wonder if there was anyone but me to bring her name (or some/any name outside the tradition) up. (I am not able to follow all political musings.)

    Nice blog btw. Glad that Jake (of A Foreign Perspective) gave a link.

  4. Good blog, James. I am living near Fethiye and one of three people who run a community information website, Fethiye Times, for British people living here/thinking of relocating. With your agreement we’d like to put a link into your recent Presidential Candidates post.

  5. Dear Pat,

    By all means, please link away. I’m glad so many people have found it so useful. It needs updating already, however. Apparently a former gameshow host has launched his own bid for the presidency. Ho-hum.


  6. Game show host indeed. We don’t have a TV so wouldn’t recognise him. I actually just write for the site and do translations from Turkish, so when my fellow ‘site people’ get back from Greece on Monday they shall post the link – they do the technical stuff. Needless to say we’d also like to link to any update you may produce.

  7. Brenda –

    MPs in Turkey are elected by province, not by specific towns within a province, so while there are no MPs specifically for Fethiye you do have a choice of six for Mugla itself.

    The full list is on the TBMM website. All but one – the AKP member – have email addresses. I have it on reasonably good authority that MPs check their emails semi-regularly, so you should get a quick reply from one of them at least.

    Best of luck with your enquiry, give me a shout if I can help with anything else,


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