Friday, June 28, 2013

Turkish Power Struggle: Brotherly Love Begins to Fray in Ankara

    Friday, June 28, 2013   No comments

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gül have long been political allies. But ongoing protests in the country have caused their relationship to fray and the ensuing power struggle could spell the end of the AKP.
The two men came from different backgrounds, but shared a belief in Allah and a common goal: power. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gül, now respectively prime minister and president of Turkey, have worked together since the 1990s and their alliance has helped political Islam attain more power than ever before.

The current protests in Turkey, though, are threatening to break that alliance apart. Elements of Turkish society have risen up against their government and called on Prime Minister Erdogan to resign. Yet even as protesters and police clash in the streets, another power struggle is taking place in Ankara. President Gül is increasingly seeking to distance himself from his former political ally.

Erdogan and Gül are different in both background and character. Erdogan worked hard to get where he is today. As a child, he sold sesame rings in Istanbul's port neighborhood of Kasmpasa. He was also an avid soccer player, earning himself the nickname "Imam Beckenbauer." Although he managed to attend university and later became Istanbul's mayor, Erdogan was never able to conceal his simpler origins -- nor did he want to. He is moody, temperamental and unrestrained, qualities that may well be his undoing in the current crisis.

Gül, on the other hand, comes across as being diplomatic and moderate. Unlike Erdogan, he speaks English. Gül's parents were relatively well-to-do, sending their son to study economics in Istanbul and London. Gül worked as a manager for an Islamic bank in Saudi Arabia before being elected to Turkish parliament in the 1990s as part of the Islamist Refah movement.

At the time, the country was run by the military, a legacy from the days of Mustafa Kemal, known as Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. The country was secular, militaristic and authoritarian. At the time, Gül promised: "The secular system has failed. We want to change it definitively."

Erdogan, too, was involved in the Refah movement. He and Gül had little in common on a personal level, but were aware they would only succeed in their power struggle against the secular establishment if they worked together.

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