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Presidency beckons for Turkish PM 17 juillet 2012

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie.
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The National (UAE) July 17, 2012, p. 9

Thomas Seibert, Istanbul, Foreign Correspondent

Announcement clears the way for him to move to new, ceremonial role in 2014, analysts say

The prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is credited with turning his country into a regional power, has confirmed that he is withdrawing from party and parliamentary politics. The announcement makes him the odds-on favourite for a move to the presidency in 2014.

Mr Erdogan will have to give up his role in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), his seat in parliament and the office of prime minister if he becomes president.

The presidency, now mostly a ceremonial post, is held by Abdullah Gul, a long-time friend of Mr Erdogan, as well as a former AKP prime minister and foreign minister. Mr Gul has not said whether he wants to run for a second term.

“In line with the promise we have given, we will be a candidate for party chairman for the fourth and last time,” Mr Erdogan, 58, told a meeting of his ruling party in Eskisehir on Sunday, according to the AKP website yesterday.

He also renewed a promise that his current term as a member of parliament will be his last.

Mr Erdogan has not said publicly whether he wants to become president, but Huseyin Besli, one of his closest advisers, told a television interviewer last month that “Erdogan will be president in 2014”. The fact that Mr Erdogan has called on a parliamentary committee working on a new constitution to give the president new executive powers is also seen by political observers as an indication that he will seek the position.

The prime minister was not ready to leave the political arena, Mr Besli told the A Haber news channel.

“Erdogan wants to move to the palace, and it is necessary that he does,” Mr Besli said, without giving details and using the word “palace” as shorthand for the presidency, according to the channel’s website.

Since becoming prime minister in 2003, Mr Erdogan has overseen changes in Turkey that unleashed an economic boom, reduced the political power of the military, made the country a candidate for EU membership and strengthened Ankara’s role in the region.

If re-elected during the party congress on September 30, which is almost certain given his dominating position in the party, Mr Erdogan’s term as chairman will end in 2015 at the latest, according to the AKP bylaws. His term as a legislator in parliament and prime minister ends in 2015 as well.

“This will carry him through to the presidential elections” due in 2014, Soli Ozel, a political scientist at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, said yesterday. He said Mr Erdogan was expected to pick a successor as prime minister close to the date of his departure from active party politics.

Mr Ozel said he expected possible successors within the AKP to jockey for position but did not think an open contest would break out. “Erdogan will point to somebody,” he added.

Mr Erdogan said his insistence on term limits as legislator and party chief reflected the fact that the AKP was different from parties with leaders who clung to power as long as possible.

“There have been [party] chairmen in this country that were under the illusion that they were the best for every task in every age,” he said at the Eskisehir meeting on Sunday.

Mr Besli said a Russian-style role reversal that would see Mr Erdogan move to the presidency while Mr Gul would take over the post of prime minister was possible.

“I expect no inner-party resistance if Abdullah Gul becomes prime minister,” he said, referring to media reports about a swap similar to the one that saw Russia’s president. Vladimir Putin, become prime minister under Dmitry Medvedev and vice versa.

However, it is unknown whether Mr Gul is willing to go along with that plan. “The premise of the comparison with Russia is wrong,” said Mr Ozel. “Medvedev was a nobody when he became president. Mr Gul was a cofounder of the AKP and a fairly successful foreign minister. He is not a nobody.”

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