Turkish ex-president Gul says not running for the top job in June

Istanbul (AFP) –


Former Turkish head of state Abdullah Gul on Saturday ruled out running for the presidency in June, dousing fevered speculation he would challenge incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The polls are significant because under constitutional changes approved in an April 2017 referendum, Turkey will be run under an executive presidency with boosted powers for the head of state.

"There is no longer the question of my candidacy," Gul told reporters, blaming a lack of "wide consensus" between opposition parties.

Erdogan announced early presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 instead of November 3, 2019 and rumours were rife that Gul would run against him.

Although opposition leaders discussed the subject last week, there were concerns among senior officials and politicians over Gul's past ties with Erdogan.

Gul was president between 2007 and 2014 during Erdogan's time as premier. The two men founded the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with others in 2001.

After Gul stepped down in 2014, Erdogan was elected head of state.

Gul said the leader of the conservative Saadet (Felicity) Party, Temel Karamollaoglu, had independently sought to rally supporters behind the former head of state.

"I had said that if there was a wide consensus, I would not shy away from doing my bit," Gul said.

Gul has abstained from politics after 2014, a point which he stressed on Saturday.

However, Gul was critical of the political and social climate in Turkey without naming Erdogan as he described the "big difficulties" the country was facing domestically and internationally.

"We are too busy with reciprocal personal attacks and political manoeuvring rather than what is good for Turkey... Turkey unfortunately does not have a positive agenda. In this environment, we are heading for elections," Gul said.