The third time was the charm for Abdullah Gul. The devout Muslim whose wife wears a headscarf won Turkey’s presidency Tuesday after twice falling short of the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to secure the position. In the third round of voting, he only needed a simple majority. Gul’s party, the Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party (AKP) holds 341 of the 530 seats in the Turkish parliament, and he got 339 votes.
The Wall Street Journalreports that “[i]n a recent meeting with journalists, Mr. Gul said he would make use of his experience as foreign minister to … make the Turkish presidency more active on the international scene.”
Gul made good on that promise even before assuming the presidency, having worked in tandem with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apply pressure on Israel last week to bring Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham H. Foxman to heel after he conceded last week that the near-annihilation of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks “was tantamount to genocide.” While Gul was working Israel’s ambassador to Ankara over, Erdogan was whining to Israeli President Shimon Peres that Turkey “was feeling ‘disappointed with its friends.’” Peres called Foxman, who then sent a letter of apology for putting the Turkish people “in a difficult position.”
Given the Turkish military’s propensity to overthrow the country’s government, Gul might not be around all that long - if he does not exercise his veto power over legislation passed by parliament under the leadership of political ally Erdogan that is perceived to pull the country towards Islamism.
The Associated Pressreports that “top generals did not attend the swearing-in ceremony … Local media interpreted their absence as a protest against the 56-year-old Gul. … The military has ousted four governments since 1960, and an initial presidential bid by Gul was derailed over fears that he planned to dilute secular traditions. Some commentators said the generals’ failure to show up for Gul’s oath-taking was ominous.”
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