A new divide between the country’s two top officials erupted Oct. 30 as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told President Abdullah Gül that “double-headed rule” would not benefit Turkey. The president had instructed Ankara’s governor to tolerate those who wanted to celebrate Republic Day independently despite the government ban.
“We have not ruled this country under double-headed governance. This country will go nowhere with double-headed rule. If there are those who wish this country to be ruled by a presidential system, I am in favor of this. We’ll take these steps much more easily, and there would be no such problem,” Erdoğan told reporters at a press conference Oct. 30.
Erdoğan’s statement came after discussions concerning who had instructed the police to remove the barriers preventing people from walking toward Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Atatürk, despite the Ankara Governorship’s ban. More than 50,000 people gathered in front of the former Parliament building on Oct. 29, and police used water cannons and pepper gas to disperse the crowd.
There were rumors that Erdoğan gave the instructions to remove the barriers but he swiftly denied these claims late Oct. 29 and Oct. 30. All eyes have returned to the president, who invited Ankara Gov. Atilla Yüksel for a meeting on Oct. 27.
“During the meeting the president told the governor to take the necessary precautions but to be as flexible as possible and to let the people celebrate their holiday the way they want,” a source from the presidency said, “but he did not instruct the governor to remove the barriers on Oct. 29.”
Erdoğan said he did not believe that the order had been given by the president. “My responsibilities as the prime minister are known, so are the president’s.”
Gül-Erdoğan rift not new
The two politicians and founders of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been in obvious disagreement on a number of issues recently. Gül criticized the government’s deficiencies with regard to human rights and the democratization process and expressed his opposition to attempts to lift the parliamentary immunity of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers. Erdoğan, however, said he thought differently from the president.
Gül’s senior adviser, Ahmet Sever, said Gül was disappointed about the discussions on whether the mandate of the president was five or seven years and noted that the president’s term lasted until 2014.
Disagreement between the two politicians over the Oct. 29 march was obvious in their statements to the media during a reception later the same day. “Everybody can celebrate the holiday the way they want. Everybody is to celebrate it without breaking general rules or disturbing others,” Gül told reporters, in contrast to Erdoğan, who described the march as illegal.
Erdoğan blames police
Angry with the police’s inability to prevent crowds from passing through the barriers around Anıtkabir, Erdoğan met with the governor and police chief. “Our police should have been more serious. They showed weakness there,” he said.
“Look what a columnist wrote, this is interesting, ‘Protests for Abdullah Öcalan [imprisoned leader of the PKK] are allowed but police do not let people march with Turkish flags in their hands.’ Where are these arguments coming from? If you cannot safely execute your job, then they can make such arguments.”