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Eyes turn to Gul as countdown begins to Turkish referendum

Turkey's former President Abdullah Gul has come under fire for refusing to speak at a rally for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unnerving Erdogan's loyalists as the referendum approaches.
Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul waves from a car as he leaves a memorial service for the victims of the thwarted coup in Istanbul, Turkey, July 17, 2016.       REUTERS/Kemal Aslan - RTSIDEV

With less than two weeks left before a critical referendum on switching Turkey’s parliamentary system to a presidential one, the gloves are coming off and a former president is being dragged into the ring. Abdullah Gul, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who stepped down as president in 2014 after serving a single seven-year term, has come under fire for refusing to speak up in favor of the measure that would concentrate power in his successor Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hands.

The controversy erupted when Gul declined to take part in an April 1 campaign rally in his native Kayseri, where Erdogan was due to speak. Erdogan decided not to go either, leaving Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to address the crowd. Gul cited his decision not to participate in any political events as the reason for his absence, but Erdogan’s allies were not satisfied. “The 'no' voter failed to surprise,” noted Duvardibi TV, a news portal whose main purpose seems to be to discredit Erdogan’s enemies, perceived or real.

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