Abdallah Gul expresses anger of former allies with Erdogan

Former Turkish president signalling he is a potential electoral contender
Wednesday 01/07/2020
A file picture of former Turkish head of state Abdullah Gul in Istanbul. (AFP)
A file picture of former Turkish head of state Abdullah Gul in Istanbul. (AFP)

ANKARA – Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul has sent a strong signal to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will not leave him unchallenged, especially after the latter has led the country to a severe economic and political crisis and shattered the dreams of those who had worked with him for years.

Turkish observers and politicians noted that the anti-Erdogan front started to expand to include yesterday’s high-level friends, and that his policy of refusing to face his problems would sooner or later leave him without political support.

Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul has finally broken his self-imposed silence and came out firing both barrels. He criticised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies, and warned of dangers facing Turkey. Erdogan was also accused of using conspiracies to run the country.

In an interview with Karar newspaper, a publication loyal to former Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, a critic of Erdogan’s policies, Gul criticised the Justice and Development Party and the way Turkey is currently governed. He warned that the biggest threat facing the country now is the mounting external and internal debts, economic decline and the continued downfall of the local currency.

Former Turkish head of state Abdullah Gul speaks during a press conference in Istanbul. (AFP)
Former Turkish head of state Abdullah Gul speaks during a press conference in Istanbul. (AFP)

Gul also said that personal freedoms are seriously threatened in Turkey because of the repressive practices of the Turkish regime against opponents and journalists. The Turkish president has used the failed coup against him in the summer of 2016 to tighten his security grip on the state and neutralise his political opponents.

Nisreen Nas, a researcher in Turkish affairs and former head of the Motherland Party, said that Gul’s words should be considered an early warning to his former ally Erdogan and his party, that the growing and widespread anger among supporters of the Justice and Development Party about the way he runs Turkey is close to boiling point.

The former Turkish president remained silent during the past years, speaking only on rare occasions, the last of which was last February, when he criticized the presidential system in Turkey and the government’s foreign policy, and Erdogan was not spared his former comrade’s criticism.

Gul is not the only former ally of the Turkish President who had defected from Erdogan’s APK party, after they realised the country had entered a “dark tunnel” because of the President’s policies.

It was important that the former Turkish president broke his silence about the political and economic crisis in Turkey as he was a founding figure in the Justice and Development Party. Gul has been criticized for his continued silence about the hard-line presidential path followed by his successor. Erdogan has further succeeded in killing the slogans and ideas introduced by those who worked alongside him for years and had played a prominent role in showing Turkey in a better economic and political situation, before Erdogan turned against them.

Yavuz Baidar, editor of Turkish Ahval website, told The Arab Weekly that Gul went silent due to several factors, the first of which is that opinion polls show a continuous decline in the number of supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

The segment of voters who have not yet chosen a candidate and who are dissatisfied with the current situation is witnessing a historic increase of nearly 30%. This may have prompted Gul to return to the scene in the role of a “saviour”.

Economic forecasts are raising the alarm about the deepening crisis of the Turkish lira, in addition to the structural imbalance that is rooted in the country, corruption and a total lack of checks and balances.

Observers say that some of the most important causes behind the overall deterioration in conditions during Erdogan’s time are the breakdown of separation of powers, extreme administrative centralization, and the measures and procedures followed to turn Turkey into a security-obsessed country, isolated from other democratic countries and allies.

Baidar believes that Gul, through his appearance, is sending a signal that he is still in the game, even perhaps as a candidate in next elections. But he warns that despite the widespread anxiety in the Turkish society, the opposition remains in a state of disarray and unable to overcome its differences.

This same weakness also extends to the two new parties launched by former Economy Minister Ali Babacan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, two former prominent figures in the Justice and Development Party.

Gul’s sudden re-emergence on the political scene and his taking a strongly critical stance aims at distancing himself from the consequences of Erdogan’s control of the Justice and Development Party. It is also seen as an attempt by the former president to woo the angry sectors and personalities in society.