As close political collaborators for over a decade, President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan built the Justice and Development Party into Turkey’s dominant political force. But now, the two men appear poised to part ways.
“It is all about the presidency. It is all about Gül’s position and his political career,” observed political columnist Kadri Gursel of the daily Milliyet. “He wants to continue as president. We know very well the prime minister wants to be the president.”
At the moment, it is the 58-year-old prime minister who wields real power in Turkey, with the presidency being a largely symbolic post, a figurehead selected by parliament. But in 2014, Turkey will, for the first time, directly elect its president. And it is the country’s worst kept political secret that Erdoğan aspires to be Turkey’s first directly elected president. He has already stated that his current, third term as prime minister, which ends in 2015, will be his last.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.