Abdullah Gül

President of Turkey

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  • In-Country Power
  • International Power
  • Respect
  • Military Strength
  • Intelligence
  • Special Skill: Secular State Smasher

Official Stats

  • Official Title: President
  • Government: Established democracy
  • Years Left in Office: To 2012; re-election possible
  • Political Classification: Center-right
  • Education: MS, PhD in Economics
  • Age: 73 (born October 29, 1950)

Abdullah Gül Facts and Information

Important Points

  • Gül is the 11th President of Turkey, and is the first devout Muslim head of state in the staunchly secular country.
  • Gül served as Prime Minister from 2002 – 2003 and Foreign Minister from 2003-2007.
  • Gül has a reputation as being a conservative moderate and strong defender of democracy and human rights.
  • Gül was awarded the Chatham House Prize in 2010 in recognition for his contribution to international relations.

The Rundown

Let’s talk turkey, no really, let’s talk Turkey! As half of the dynamic duo in charge, Abdullah Gül has served as the 11th President of Turkey since 2007. Balancing his super powers of negotiation and persuasion with his moderate yet progressive ideologies, he has been widely recognized for his efforts in bringing unity to the Middle East.  In 2010 he was awarded the Chatham House Prize by the Royal Institute of International Affairs which recognized him as a world leader who made the most significant contribution to international relations in the preceding year. Sweet! What an honor, and it was presented to him by none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

Gül may play Robin to Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan’s Batman, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t significantly contributed to vast advances in Turkey’s recent history, or that he will continue to play second fiddle. He has not only worked to strengthen Turkey’s traditional relations with the Middle East, but he has also tried to bring the Pakistani and Afghan leaders together, to reunify Cyprus, and to reconcile with Armenia. Gül has also steadfastly fought to gain accession to the European Union through advocating for democratic rule and implementing political and legal reforms attempting to reach the democratic and human rights standards required by the EU.

He has stated that his ultimate objective for Turkey is to set high standards in democracy and human rights, and that he is not interested in becoming a world power. Instead he wants to strive for “virtuous power” which he defines as prioritizing the safeguarding of human interests with no expectation of gaining anything in return. He wants Turkey to understand right from wrong and have sufficient power to defend what is right. These are very heroic ideas indeed!

Why is protecting Gotham, I mean Turkey, so important? Turkey is important on the world stage as it serves as a bridge between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It is a founding member of both the United Nations and the Council of Europe, as well as a member of the United Nations Security Council. Turkey has considerable influence in both the Middle East and North Africa, and has actively played an integral role in alliance initiatives. In addition to possessing key relations in Europe and the Middle East, Turkey has forged a healthy relationship with the United States as well.

In addition to its central location, Turkey is drawing attention for the significant growth in population and economy experience during the reign of the dynamic duo. Through reforms many government controls regarding foreign trade, privatization of publicly owned industries, and foreign trade have been overhauled which has allowed Turkey’s markets to open up. Gül and Erdoğan have also successfully brought Turkey’s notoriously high inflation under control, launched a new currency, and helped Turkey become ranked as one of the most popular destinations in the world! Their efforts have resulted in Turkey having one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Why might there be a role reversal in the dynamic duo you ask? Turkey is a parliamentary representative democracy where the President of the Republic is seen as a ceremonial head of state.  The president is elected for a term of seven years and can veto laws, appoint officials and name judges but can only hold the office for one term. The Prime Minister and Council of Ministers possess the executive power while the Grand National Assembly of Turkey possesses the legislative power. The Constitutional Court, or judiciary branch, is separate from the executive and legislative branches. Erdoğan has served three consecutive terms as prime minister and is unable to seek a fourth term under law which has led him to hint he may run for president in the next election, the position currently held by his sidekick Gül.  Since the role of prime minister holds most of the executive power, Gül may in fact be interested in a job swap of sorts, similar to the swap by Russia’s Vladimir Putin and former president, Dmitri Medvedev.

Also to watch, when elections are held on August 2, 2014 for the first time in Turkish history the president will be popularly elected instead of by parliament as was Gül. In the midst of recent allegations of corruption amongst political leaders the economy and reputation has taken a setback which could be costly at elections.

In December, Prime Minister Erdoğan was shocked to learn that three sons of his cabinet members and other key businessmen belonging to his party were arrested as part of a major corruption ring. He has claimed the probe into corruption was launched as a “smear campaign” targeted at him. Since exposure of the scandal Erdoğan has fought with the judiciary and tried to initiate legal amendments which would limit the power of the judiciary. Gül, on the other hand, has taken sides with the judiciary in opposition to Erdoğan continuing his commitment to a balance of power. Gül‘s stance has been more closely aligned with Fethullah Gulen who is believed to have initiated the bribery probe in the first place. Could the apparent discord between the dynamic duos destroy the possibility of a role reversal for the two?

This will be a must see sequel! Will Gül be successfully elected as Prime Minister and Erdoğan to the presidency? Can Batman accept a back seat to the old Robin? Will one of the numerous opposition candidates unseat on or both of them? Stay tuned….

The Background

Abdullah Gül was born in Kayseri, Jordan where his family was quite prominent. His father, Ahmet Hamdi Gül, worked as a foreman in the aircraft factory until later retiring and establishing his own business. Abdullah’s mother, Adviye, was a member of a very old and established Satoğlu family. As the firstborn male grandchild on both sides of the family, aspirations for Gül were high from the beginning. With many of his ancestors having been well educated and having served as academics, writers, educators, and bureaucrats success was in his blood.

On his journey to becoming a successful sidekick Gül spent his college years at the Istanbul University, where he studied economics. He continued his education by conducting post graduate work in England and finally earned his Ph.D. from Istanbul University. Post college graduation Gül served as an economist at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and later returned to his as alma mater as an associate professor of International Economics. During his college years at the Istanbul University Gül became active in the nationalist Turkish National Students’ Union.

Gül came by politics honestly as his father had once unsuccessfully run as a parliamentary candidate of the National Salvation Party (NSP, Millî Selâmet Partisi).  In a stance to maintain its secular position the Turkish constitutional court, however, banned religiously based political parties which brought the death of the NSP.

But it was not until 1991 when Abdullah Gül took the plunge full-time into Turkish politics. He began as the international spokesman for the Welfare Party (WP, Refah Partisi) which was basically the reincarnation of NSP which his father supported.  Gül found success in the Welfare Party and was elevated to role of minister of the coalition government until WP was shut down by the military in 1997. He then branched off to form the Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), a democratic, conservative, Islamic-leaning group.  In 2002 the AKP won an absolute majority in parliamentary elections and the dynamic duo was born… fortunately for Gül, Erdoğan, the party’s leader, was at that time barred from holding a public office due to a 1998 conviction for inciting religious hatred. With Erdoğan barred from office Gül filled in and served as prime minister for four months until his friend was cleared to assume public office. Under Erdoğan’s administration Gül served as foreign minister from 2003 to 2007 where he heavily focused on obtaining Turkey’s membership in the European Union. In 2007 the AKP nominated Gül to succeed President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

With a significant background in political Islam his nomination to parliament was met with significant opposition as opponents feared he would overrun Turkey’s policy on separation of state and religion. He was, however, successfully elected as president by parliament that year.  As Turkey’s first devout practicing Muslim head of state Gül has managed to not only represent conservative Islam practicing Turks, but also the secular republic. Since his founding of the AKP he has striven to be viewed as moderate politician. As such, he has focused on strengthening the Turkish democracy, improving foreign relations, turning around economy, and improving how Turkey is seen by the rest of the world.

Gül would like for Turkey to be an example for the rest of the region showing how they can be a successful democracy and experience an economic boom while still being a Muslim country. He does not believe anyone should prescribe a course of action for any other country, but rather show solidarity and understanding in the issues and challenges they face. As a role model he hopes to strike a balance between Turkeys’ traditional Western focused policy with its growing interests in the Muslim world and Middle East.

As Turkey shares a border with Syria, Gül has a vested interest in the unrest there and how the rest of the world may react to it. He believes Russia and Iran should be included in discussion related to Syria and that this inclusion may sway them to support the implementation of a democratic government in Syria as well as the ousting of Bashar al-Assad.  Gül believes that should a new government arise they must take a strong position on the Palestinians if they want countries such as Russia, Iran and China to realize the new regime as legitimate. He is very concerned that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered by most to be a terrorist group, is using the unrest in Syria as an opportunity. Fighting between the PKK and the Turkish government has been more violent and bloody during this time than any other period in the last decade. The grave human rights violations ongoing in Syria are also a very serious concern for Gül who has been outspoken on his desire to safeguard human rights for all.

In addition to his concerns regarding Syria, he would like to see peace with Israel and eliminate nuclear weapons in the region. Gül would like to see improved Turkish-Israeli relations but blames the current situation on mistakes made by Israel as well as their shortsighted strategic position. He supports making every effort to contribute to and support the peacemaking process between the Israelis and the Arabs. He supports nuclear disarmament across the Middle East and believes the key is achieving a guarantee of Israel security within the region which could lead to Israeli disarmament. Once this is accomplished then he believes other countries will follow suit including Iran.

Even though many reforms already have already been implemented in Turkey by the dynamic duo, Gül believes “second-generation” reforms are still needed. The original focus or “first-generation” reforms related to improved political stability, greater macroeconomic balance and increased growth potential.  He would now like to implement reforms which will improve the quality of education for all Turks. He feels strongly better education will not only improve the human condition, but will also promote economic and diplomatic stability and sustained growth for Turkey. In addition, Gül believes reforms are needed to the Turkish production model, which is based on a low-cost labor model, and that by using more information technologies to provide value-added and innovative solutions and products Turkey can be more successful. Lastly, he regards peace in the region as critical for Turkey to reach its full economic potential.

Gül is proud of the achievements in Turkey during the last decade, but believe it still has many opportunities exist. Should Robin swap roles with Batman, perhaps he will have even greater power to affect change in these areas as well. Who knows what adventure this dynamic duo will experience next…sequel coming this summer.

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