The speaker of Turkey’s parliament hints this might not, yet, be Erdoğan’s time to ascend
There’s been a considerable amount of excitement in this morning’s Turkish newspapers over a few words uttered by the speaker of the Turkish parliament.
Bülent Arınç told reporters this morning that he believed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should remain prime minister for the next term: “with his charisma and dynamism, there is much that he can give to Turkey over the next five years. Turkey shouldn’t be drawn back into coalitions. Drawing from the experience of the last five years, (Mr Erdoğan) can achieve the unachieved.”
You can imagine how the pulses of several reporters around that breakfast table quicked. A flurry of questions followed: “Are you saying Erdoğan shouldn’t be president? Are you nominating yourself? What about (the foreign minister) Abdullah Gül? Does the president have to be one of you three?” Mr Arınç did answer the first by saying he would support an Erdoğan presidency, if that’s what he wanted, but he managed to avoid directly answering all the others.
Taha Akyol in Milliyet writes that the reporters then asked him to define what a president should be. The speaker reeled off a list: “He must have experience in the state, he must have a vision, he must support freedom, he must be on the side of the people and he must be someone who allows discussion of his own position.
“The president,” Mr Arınç went on, “has a list of duties that covers four pages of the consitution. He has more power than necessary. The opposition are turning this into a regime feud, a discussion over secularism.” He gave the example of Abdullah Gül willingly relinquishing his premiership to Mr Erdoğan in 2003. “We don’t fight over positions. I myself have proposed a change to parliament’s internal regulations to allow votes of no confidence in the speaker.”
Some newspapers have taken Mr Arınç’s words a step further by saying he has unofficially acknowledged his own presidential prospects. His candidacy would create more unease than even Mr Erdoğan’s – he is regarded with more suspicion, having been more involved than the present AK leader with the religious wing of the former Welfare Party. But there is no Arınç candidacy yet. His comments were simply too vague to be interpreted as a declaration of any kind. There is no new presidential candidate, nothing has changed there.
What has changed is that the speaker of parliament, second only to the president in the state hierarchy, has agreed with the views expressed in this blog last month. Mr Erdoğan has proved himself remarkably adept as prime minister since taking the post in March 2003, and for all his faults he remains more popular a figure than any other politician in the country.
At this stage in his career, he needs to put aside personal ambition and pursue national interests. The presidency, like nearly every Turkish institution, is in dire need of reform. Mr Erdoğan’s role at this stage is not one of being reformed, but of making reform.