Turkish politics is too masculinist and polarized, but Turkey’s 11th President, Abdullah Gul, stands out with his moderate tone and conciliatory style. In the run-up to the general elections in June 2015, both those who support him and those who doubt him agree that his role in Turkish politics has recently been amplified.
As Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and President, Gul has for many years been an ally of Turkey’s dominant political figure, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but also his main rival. When the Gezi Park riots erupted last year in protest against a decision by Erdogan to build a shopping center in the park, Gul declared that peaceful assembly was a democratic right. After Twitter was blocked, he was among the millions of citizens who broke the ban. “A complete shutdown of social-media platforms cannot be approved,” he tweeted.
Turkey’s democrats have high expectations of Gul, some of which have been shadowed by his signing of controversial bills. Gul is now at an important crossroads. He can choose a calmer life or go back into active politics to push for the democratization that the country sorely needs today.
Shafak is a Turkish novelist, columnist and speaker