Claims emerge that Turkey’s former president offers to help CHP win Istanbul mayor’s election

With the country’s contentious presidential election done and dusted, its parliamentary elections completed, Turkey is now racing towards its hotly contested local government elections which are set to take place before April 2019.

And as matters heat up ahead of these elections, one claim that has taken centre stage of the political debate is of former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) member and Turkish president Abdullah Gül joining forces with the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) to snatch the Istanbul mayoralty.

Gül and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu met in mid-November. The meeting between the two was brought to light by Abdülkadir Selvi, a journalist on the mass circulating Hürriyet, who is also known for his affiliation with the ruling AK Party.

According to Selvi, the two met in talks that lasted more than three hours. He made a further claim that Gül also met with opposition Felicity Party’s leader Temel Karamollaoğlu. The Felicity Party (SAADET) is widely known as the remnant of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan’s Islamic National Outlook movement, from where ruling AK Party originated.

Neither Kılıçdaroğlu nor Gül  have answered questions related to this meeting or made any comments over what was discussed.

Sources close to Gül say that the two exchanged views on foreign affairs and diplomacy, but that local political issues were not discussed at all.

News of this meeting between the two has resulted in claims in the Turkish media that Gül “offered” former deputy prime minister Ali Babacan to the CHP leader as the Istanbul mayoral candidate in the upcoming local elections in March.

Süleyman Özışık, a journalist at the Türkiye Daily and who is known his close affiliation to the ruling AK Party, made the original claim over the Babacan offer. He wrote that “Gül’s motivation is to take away votes from AK Party.”

All three men – Kılıçdaroğlu, Gül and Babacan – have not confirmed or denied Özışık’s claim. There has also been no word from CHP sources.

Gül served as Turkish president from 2007 to 2014 while current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the country’s prime minister. At that time the presidency was not an executive position, but more ceremonial.

Apart from serving as deputy prime minister from 2009 to 2015, the Ankara-born Babacan was also economic affairs minister from 2002 to 2007. Babacan fell out of favor in 2015 after some senior AK Party figures began criticizing him and it appeared according to some media reports (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/deputy-pm-babacan-summons-economy-team-in-september-amid-questions-over-his-future-70776 ) that his orthodox economic policies contradicted the polices that Erdogan wanted implemented.

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