28/08/2007 - Results
On 28th August 2007 Abdullah Gül became the 11th President of the Republic of Turkey. The former Foreign Minister won 339 votes out of 550 in the Grand National Assembly, the only Chamber in Parliament, during the third round of voting where a simple majority (i.e. 276 votes) was enough to be elected. His election in the third round was expected since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of which he is a member of has held 341 seats since the general elections on 22nd July last. His two rivals, former Home (1991) and Defence Minister (1999-2202), Sebahattin Cakmakoglu (National Action Party, MHP), and Hüseyin Tayfun Icli (Democratic Left Party DSP) won 70 and 13 votes respectively on 28th August.
The election of Abdullah Gül to the supreme office is a victory for the AKP over the opposition parties and the elites who are not necessarily democratic and often from nationalist and anti-Western environments. The latter often have the support of the armed forces, who are afraid of the election of an AKP member as President since many believe him to be an 'Islamist'; they were the cause of a major political crisis in April this year.
After the first presidential election on 27th April, Abdullah Gül, the only candidate running won 357 votes of the 361 MPs present. The People's Republican Party boycotted the election along with most of the MPs from the Mother Country Party (ANATAVAN) and the True Path Party (DYP). The People's Republican Party then appealed to the court for the election to be annulled on the grounds that 2/3 of the members of the Grand National Assembly, i.e. 367 members were not present to vote. On 1st May the Constitutional Court annulled the presidential election by 9 votes to 2. Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately announced the organisation of early general elections. These took place on 22nd July. The Justice and Development Party won with 46.30% of the votes, clinching the absolute majority in Parliament with 341 seats.
On 10th May Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government pushed a constitutional reform through Parliament which modifies the institutions and enables the organisation of general elections every four years; this includes the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage for a five year term in office which is renewable once (instead of the present non-renewable 7 year mandate. This reform also lowers the age at which MPs may run for election to 25 and establishes the necessary quorum of votes at 184 for the approval of legal texts. The President of the Republic, Ahmet Necdet Sezer placed his veto on the text on 25th May but since Parliament approved the text again five days later the Head of State was forced to submit the constitutional reform to referendum.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission welcomed the election of Abdullah Gül as President of the Republic of Turkey on 28th August. "This heralds significant success for Turkey and the Turkish people," he said. "Over the last five months political life in Turkey has been focussed on the general and presidential elections,
" he declared, adding "now a new government will take over and will be able to work according to a clear, popular mandate. I believe the presidency of Abdullah Gül might help in providing new, immediate, positive impetus to Turkey's accession to the European Union and to progress in a number of key areas.
During the first round which took place on 20th August Abdullah Gül won 341 votes i.e. 26 less than vital the 2/3 majority (367 votes) to be elected in the first two rounds. Sabahattin Cakmakoglu won 70 votes and Hüseyin Tayfun Icli, 13. 23 MPs put in blank votes and one slip was invalidated. During the second round on 24th August Abdullah Gül won 337 votes, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, 71 and Hüseyin Tayfun Icli, 14.
The People's Republican Party (CHP), the main opposition party led by Deniz Baykal refused to take part in the election and announced that it would boycott all of the presidential receptions after the election of Abdullah Gül. The People's Republican Party leader had regularly accused Abdullah Gül of "representing the ideology of specific circles who have not accepted republican values." "When Abdullah Gül is President of the Republic Turkey will become a country in which political balance is threatened; it will be the play thing of foreign powers and will witness the growth of its Middle Eastern identity,
" maintained Deniz Baykal. "We shall be watching his every step and we shall check on his loyalty towards the Republic,
" declared Mustafa Ozyürek, the Vice-President of the People's Republican Party. In addition to this General Yasar Büyükanit, chief of staff of the Turkish armed forces denounced "the pockets of evil which systematically try to wear down the country's secular structure (...). The Turkish armed forces will make no concessions in their duty to protect the Turkish Republic and to keep it a secular, social structure based on the authority of the law.
Another dispute irrupted with regard to Hayrunnisa Gül, the head of State's wife who wears the veil covering both the neck and hair. She is the first of Turkey's leading women to wear the veil since 1925. We should remember that the veil is forbidden in Turkey in the civil services and universities. In 1998, Hayrunnisa Gül, who wanted to study at university, was prevented from doing so. This was a decision she challenged at the European Court of Human Rights before withdrawing her appeal in order avoid sanctions being made against her country of which her husband was Foreign Minister. Wives of leading members of the army of which the President of the Republic is the ultimate leader are also forbidden from wearing the veil. According to a poll published by the daily Milliyet, 72.6% of Turks say they do not object to the Head of State's wife wearing the veil against 19.8% who say it "disturbs" them. "It is her choice. I shall be President, not her
," answered Abdullah Gül when asked about the veil his wife wears. Hayrunnisa Gül has asked Atil Kutoglu, a Turkish fashion designer living in Vienna to redesign a veil. "Hayrunnisa Gül asked me to redesign a veil as well as her entire wardrobe in a style which is suitable for all, from the most modern to the most conservative,
" said the designer.
Abdullah Gül, 56 years old, comes from Kayseri, a town in the centre of Turkey. For some of his time as a student he studied economics in London. He then worked as an economist at the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia. In 1991 when he returned to Turkey he became an international economics teacher and joined the True Path Party. In 1999 he joined the Prosperity Party (Refah) led by Necmettin Erbakan. He was elected MP in 1991, then re-elected in 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2007. From 1996 to 1997, he was Minister of State and spokesperson for the government coalition between Islamists and the True Path Party. In 1999 he created the Virtue Party (FP) before founding the Justice and Development Party with Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After the AKP's victory in the elections on 3rd November 2002 he was Prime Minister for several months (18th November 2002-11th March 2003) due to Erdogan's ineligibility before relinquishing his place to the latter and being appointed Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Abdullah Gül is a fervent supporter his country's accession to the European Union and has undertaken a great deal with regard to opening negotiations between Ankara and Brussels.
"Turkey is a democratic, secular, social country founded on the State of Law. The enhancement and defence of republican values and the principles of the Turkish Constitution will be my priority,
" maintained Abdullah Gül before the election. He said that he would abandon all partisan tendencies after his election as Head of State and promised he would be a neutral President. "Once elected Abdullah Gül will no longer have any links with our party. >From the time of his election he will be the President of the Republic of Turkey,
" said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"I was Prime Minister for five years when Turkey was experiencing some of the most difficult times of its history. I was then Foreign Minister in times that were still difficult and during the Iraq war. I also led the anti-terrorist movement. I have always defended Turkey's interests and negotiated with everyone, I am an honest person. I have been involved in political life since 1991 and everyone knows me. Everyone can be sure that I shall do my duty in a totally impartial manner and that I shall work for all Turkish citizens,
" stressed the new President of the Republic of Turkey.
Elected for seven years Abdullah Gül, was sworn in just a few hours after his election on 28th August and just before the ceremony exchanging power with his predecessor Ahmet Necdet Sezer. "I swear before the great Turkish nation that I shall be loyal to democracy and to the Secular Republic and to do my duty impartially,
" he declared as he took oath. "As long as I am in office I shall rally all of our citizens without prejudice. I shall maintain my impartiality with the greatest of care. The principle secularity is both a model which ensures freedom for different lifestyles and a rule for social peace,
" he maintained in his inaugural speech. Finally he recalled that Turkey had to continue work on the road to joining the European Union. On 29th August Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appointed his new government which he will submit for the new President's approval.
On 21st October 42.5 million Turks will again be called to vote to decide by referendum the means of election of their future President of the Republic amongst other matters. This will be the last date in a busy electoral agenda.