Over in the Corner, Michael Rubin passes on news that the ruling party in Turkey, AKP, has nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to be the incoming President.
(Quick refresher – the head of state is the Prime Minister; the President is a separate branch of government, with a veto over legislation and approval of many key nominations. Think of it as a one-man Supreme Court, although they also have a separate judicial branch. The President serves a seven-year term.)
The outgoing President is Ahmet Necdet Sezer and was considered the last secular bulwark in the way of AKP’s moderately Islamist agenda (not as contradictory as you might think; they want to see Turkey more Islamic, but they’re very patient about it). The speculation for months was that Prime Minister Erdogan was going to resign and have his party nominate himself for President, clearing away the last obstacle to his agenda.
Gul, from my impression, is a half-a-loaf candidate. He’s a member of the AKP party, but is considered much more cosmopolitan, has much greater interest in the West and how Turkey’s decisions play out there. For example – Erdogan is the first Turkish prime minister in many years who only speaks Turkish, a language not spoken much beyond Turkey’s borders and a few somewhat related languages in central Asia. When he was elected, the language barrier was seen as a symbol of his relative isolationism and lack of interest in foreign affairs. Gul speaks English and Arabic. He lived in London and went to school in the U.K.
My sense on Gul? If the next president had to come from the AKP party, he’s probably the best option. But all in all, fans of secularism within Turkey and without would prefer a different ruling party to win in the country’s parliamentary elections at the end of this year. So far, however, the opposition is very divided. If polls are accurate, AKP would keep its majority if the election were held today.