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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Gul rules out running in Turkey's elections

Turkey’s former president Abdullah Gul says the country does not have 'a positive agenda'

Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul has ruled out running for the presidency in June, dousing fevered speculation he would challenge current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Bulent Kilic / AFP 
Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul has ruled out running for the presidency in June, dousing fevered speculation he would challenge current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Bulent Kilic / AFP 

Turkey’s former president Abdullah Gul has ruled out running in the country's upcoming elections.

Mr Gul ended weeks of speculations on Saturday that he might challenge his once close ally, President Recep Tayyib Erdgoan, in the June 24 presidential elections.

The former Turkish leader cited a lack of consensus among opposition parties over his candidacy as his reason for not running.

"It was a request by those who trust my political judgement," Mr Gul said in a press conference in Istanbul on Saturday. "I stated that if a consensus was reached and there was widespread demand from the people, then I would not shy away from doing my part."

He continued: "There is no longer the question of my candidacy."

The June elections will be Turkey's first since a successful referendum last April in which voters approved a move from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidency giving increased powers to the head of state.

Mr Erdogan called for early elections amid a worsening economic climate on April 19, with a view to securing his position in the expanded role.

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Although opposition leaders raised the prospect of Mr Gul running last week, there were concerns among some senior officials and politicians over his past ties with Mr Erdogan.

Mr Gul said the leader of the conservative Saadet (Felicity) Party Temel Karamollaoglu had independently sought to rally supporters behind the former head of state.

The former president was critical of the political and social climate in Turkey as he described "big difficulties" the country faced domestically and internationally, though he avoided mentioning President Erdogan by name.

"We are too busy with reciprocal personal attacks and political manoeuvring rather than what is good for Turkey," Mr Gul said. "Turkey unfortunately does not have a positive agenda. In this environment, we are heading for elections."

The outcome was "no surprise", according to Turkey expert Ziya Meral. "There was a lot of hope among opposition voters about his candidacy," Mr Meral told the National. "He is the only known political figure that could get votes from all segments of Turkey’s highly polarised society. However, his decision is not surprising; he has always preferred playing safe and not committing unless he knows all major opposition groups would back him."

Mr Gul, a former prime minister and founding member of Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), served as president from 2007 to 2014.

The presidential and parliamentary elections will take place under a state of emergency that has been in place since an attempted coup in July 2016. It was extended by parliament for another three months on April 18th.

Mr Erdogan cited economic challenges and the war in Syria as reasons why Turkey must switch quickly to the powerful executive president. “In a period when developments in Syria accelerated and we have to take very important decisions, from macroeconomic equilibrium to large investments, the election issue should be removed from the agenda as soon as possible,” he told a news conference on April 18.

The government had earlier denied reports it would call early elections, which were not due until November 2019.