Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul criticized the policies of his successor, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking out against the executive presidential system.
“I have always sided with a fully democratic parliamentary system. Until today, the Turkish Parliament (TBMM) has never been so trivialized. Turkey [now] feels the deficiency of that,” Gul told daily Karar in a rare outspoken interview on Tuesday.
Answering a question over criticism for his apparent previous acquiescence to Erdogan and for staying silent, Gul argued that he had always voiced his thoughts.
“Where [in what incident] did I stay silent? For example, [let’s look at] the Gezi protests … At the very beginning, when I was first asked [about the protests], my answer was, ‘I am very proud of this [them].’ [Then], everybody was surprised [because of my comment on the protests],” the former president said.
The 2013 Gezi Park protests marked a significant challenge against then-PM Erdogan, with thousands of protestors occupying the Gezi Park and Taksim square to prevent the cut down of the trees there.
The police action against protesters resulted in nine deaths, including that of a police officer. Another 5,000 were injured.
Sixteen activists, including renowned philanthropist Osman Kavala, were later accused of attempting to overthrow the state through the protests.
Gul, a founding member of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), also touched upon Erdogan’s policy over Syria, saying Turkey had been involved in the Syrian crisis since a civil war erupted in 2011 in the country without having a proper exit plan.
“Unfortunately, [Turkey’s official communication] relationship with Syria has been cut at the very early stage [of the crisis]. For the sake of long-term benefits, you should not turn the relations with the countries and their public into enmities (sic),” Gul added.
The current situation was the result of the short-sighted policies implemented by the administrations of the countries in the region, according to the former president.
Gul went on to say that Turkey had recently come much closer to Russia, referring to Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system, despite reactions by the Western world.
“Turkey needs to be part of the Western bloc together with Europe to ensure a democratic and pluralistic country. In this respect, its recent relations with Russia are off-balance,” Gul commented.
The Turkish authorities should have known that a NATO country could not have both the Russian systems and the western aircraft developed to bypass that system at the same time, Gul added.
Turkey has been risking sanctions by the United States (US) over the S-400 purchase, including being expelled from defense partnership, and the halting of the delivery of the 100 advanced fifth-generation F-35 stealth aircraft that the Turkish military has ordered.
Gul also claimed that political Islam had failed all over the world. During his tenure as an AKP senior, the party had realized this fact and got away from the Islamist paradigm. The Erdogan regime, however, had not maintained this trend.
The Erdogan administration has been accused by many of backing the Ihvan, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, which has influenced many other Muslim-populated countries, including Syria, Libya, and Turkey.
“You [the AKP] back the Ihvan wherever you find it. You are supporting the Brotherhood-affiliated Government of National Accord (GNA) [in Libya] by saying, ‘they are an internationally recognized government.’ However, you are not backing the UN-recognized government in Syria. Instead, you are supporting the opposition there as they are from the Ihvan,” Unal Cevikoz from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticized early this year.
Gul also emphasized the need for enhancing relations with Egypt, which he said has great importance to Turkey.
“However, everyone knows the situation [concerning the relations between the two countries]. I hope that we can ultimately find a way to fix the relationship,” Gul said.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who ousted the Brotherhood government following a bloody coup in 2013, regards the Ihvan as a terrorist organization and is carrying out a crackdown on the Islamists.
Gul’s remarks on the Gezi protests came on the same day when a Turkish court ordered its final ruling in the Gezi trials.
On Tuesday, nine of the defendants, including the only jailed defendant Kavala, were acquitted of the charges as there was “not enough concrete evidence” against the accused.
Hours after the ruling, however, the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office issued a detention warrant for Kavala over charges this time related to the 2016 coup attempt.
Kavala had already spent more than two years behind bars, pending the outcome of the trial in which he was acquitted on Tuesday.
The conservative daily Karar is known for having close ties to former AKP PM Ahmet Davutoglu, who formed a newly-formed Future Party (FP) rival to Erdogan’s AKP.
Meanwhile, Gul is said to be supporting Ali Babacan, another former AKP figure who once served as the AKP deputy PM, in his preparation for another new political party, which is expected to be announced by March.