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3 reasons Turkey's ex-president never had chance at re-election

The opposition to former President Abdullah Gul’s candidacy shows a despairing, fractured opposition ahead of Turkey's snap elections.
Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul is seen with Saadet Party leader Temel Karamollaoglu during a ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey April 24, 2018. Picture taken April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir - RC1A875ACB30

Turkey's former President Abdullah Gul announced April 28 that he will not run in the June 24 elections. Al-Monitor previously covered reports that Erdogan’s adviser and Turkey’s military chief of staff arrived in Gul’s backyard in a helicopter to deter him from announcing his candidacy. In his 10-minute press conference, during which he did not bother to answer questions from journalists, Gul made it clear that the candidacy idea was not his own and that he was approached by opposition groups, particularly the tiny Saadet (Felicity) Party. His speech focused on his credentials as a founder of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and his resentment toward his former party. His was not the voice of a determined challenger but rather that of a bitter AKP insider. Regardless, the speech put an end to speculation dating back to June 2013 about Gul’s potential to oppose Erdogan.

Although Gul had not spoken about his own candidacy, prominent Turkish media figures had asked the entire opposition to rally around him. They argued that Gul is the only one who could go up against Erdogan. For example, one piece warned those who resist “the Gul formula” that they will bear the burden of not supporting the person favored by the polls. They argued that Gul would come with an A-level team, all former AKP bigwigs such as former Economy Minister Ali Babacan, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and even former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Yet none of them dared to publicly take a stand against Erdogan or the current government. Despite his name recognition and international reputation and the domestic hype from prominent liberal opposition figures, the Republican People's Party (CHP) and Iyi (Good) Party base never warmed up to Gul. Indeed, during these past two weeks, the social media accounts and mailboxes of several lawmakers were bombarded with anti-Gul messages.

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