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Is Abdullah Gül Back on the Stage? #AKPIntraWar

Is Abdullah Gül Back on the Stage? <a class="hashtagger" href="">#AKPIntraWar</a>

Were the Gezi Park protests of summer 2013 a product of “foreign powers” or “the mastermind,” aiming to topple then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan?

The Gezi protests were a relief for the country’s pro-democracy elements, showing that Turkey’s youths are not as “apolitical” as was claimed. The protests also sounded alarm bells for Erdoğan’s one-man-rule aspirations.

It is now claimed that the roots of the discord between Erdoğan and former President Abdullah Gül date back to the Gezi era. Gül was still in office at the time and Erdoğan was on a trip abroad when the protests first broke out. Gül and the then Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç were reportedly of the opinion that a cancellation of plans to rebuild a former Ottoman barracks on the site of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, coupled with an apologetic statement, would help to mollify the protesting youths.

Those who gathered at Gezi Park and in city squares across Turkey defied excessive police force, provocateurs and machete yielding die-hard Erdoğan loyalists vowing to slaughter his opponents. They demanded nothing except democratic governance, transparency and respect for the environment. The fundamental stimulus of the Gezi protests was their firm opposition to the macho leadership style and increasing know-it-all attitude of Erdoğan. It is therefore not an exaggeration to view the Gezi demonstrations as a wave of youth protests against Erdoğan.

Gül did not support the protesters at the time and neither did Arınç. The only difference between them and Erdoğan was the apparent effort on their part to understand why there was such an uprising in the country. Erdoğan, on the other hand, opted to deal with the protests with his well-honed tactic of simply going on the offensive.

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Despite sharp differences between Erdoğan and Gül over how the Gezi protests should have been dealt with, the two founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) managed to refrain from engaging in a public war of words. Later, Gül was known to be against Erdoğan’s desired shift to an executive presidential system and could not be brought around by a long tete-a-tete meeting between the two ahead of the April 2017 referendum.

This is the background to why Erdoğan recently publicly complained – without directly naming Gül – that those voicing doubts about the controversial decree law providing an amnesty to civilians who fought against the July 2016 coup attempt are actually no different from people who voted against the constitutional changes in the April 2017 referendum.

Is Gül, as pro-Erdoğan pen slingers have started to suggest, trying to emerge as the presidential candidate for anti-Erdoğan groups?

Let’s be realistic. Has anyone ever seen Gül taking a risk in any field? The only political risk he has ever undertaken was the rebellion that he – together with Erdoğan, Arınç and Abdüllatif Şener – took against former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, when it was almost certain that the Welfare Party would be closed down by the Constitutional Court back in the 1990s. Erdoğan was always on the stage as the leader of the AKP, apart from a short period in 2002. During that period – when Erdoğan could not assume public office because of his prison sentence – until he was pardoned with the help of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and elected to parliament in a makeshift by-election in Siirt, Gül was the official leader of AKP.

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About The Author

Yusuf Kanli

Born in Cyprus in 1959, Yusuf Kanlı is a graduate of the English Language and Literature Department of the Faculty of Letters of the Ankara University. He started journalism with the Turkish Daily News in 1978. Until he briefly left the paper in 1985 (for military service in Northern Cyprus) he served as diplomatic correspondent, assistant foreign news editor and assistant editor. During this period he was as well one of the two co-authors of an annual reference book on Turkey, “Turkey Almanac”. After completing his military service he returned the Daily News as assistant editor. In 1989 he became executive editor and also started writing daily opinion articles. He continued to be one of the co-authors of the “Turkey Almanac” annual reference book. In February 1993, over differences with the publisher on editorial policy, he quit the paper and joined the Anatolia News Agency (AA) as deputy foreign news chief. He stayed with the Anatolia News Agency until September 1995. In this period, he covered the Armenia-Azerbaijan war over Nogorno-Karabagh, covered developments in the post-independence Central Asian republics. Because of his refusal as the duty editor to run a manipulated news story demanded by the then lady prime minister of the country, he was fired from the AA, a development that Kanlı considers as his “medal of honor” in the profession. On his return to the Daily News for a third time in October 1995, he first became an editor at large but soon assumed the responsibility of electronic publishing and established Turkey’s first daily updated English language news web site, the TDN Online on May 19, 1996 (now In January 1997, he became executive editor of the Daily News for a second time and stayed in that post until he was appointed as editor-in-chief in June 2004. In February 2007, he quit all executive duties and became a contract columnist of the newspaper. He has been also writing weekly articles in Turkish for a variety of newspapers and news portals in Northern Cyprus. He is a former chairperson and the honorary chairperson of Diplomacy Correspondents Association (DMD) of Turkey, an active member of Association of Foreign Policy Council, a member of the executive board and vice chairperson of the Association of Journalists and coordinator of the Press for Freedom project, which has been monitoring and reporting on press and freedom of expression issues in Turkey since 2013. He has been a member of several associations and foundations, mostly established by Turkish Cypriots living in Turkey or abroad. He is married to Dr. Aydan Kanlı and has one daughter, Cansu. He has Turkish, Turkish Cypriot and Cypriot triple nationality.

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