Cablegate: Ak Party to Form New Turkish Government with Abdullah Gul As Prime Minister

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 008358


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2012

B. ANKARA 8165

(U) Classified by DCM Robert Deutsch; reasons: 1.5 (b,d).

1. (U) Nov. 16 President Sezer gave the mandate to form the
new Turkish government to AK Party number two Abdullah Gul
(ref A), who announced he will submit his proposed cabinet
list to Sezer Nov. 18. We expect the government to be in
office a week to ten days thereafter. Gul bio in para 5.

2. (U) To underscore to both the Turkish Establishment and
voters that he remains firmly in charge of AK Party and will
dominate policy-making, party chairman Erdogan held a
concurrent press conference to announce AK's one-year
emergency action plan. It was clear from TV coverage, which
focused on Erdogan, not on Gul's visit to the presidency,
that the country understands. It is the general expectation
that AK will pursue amendments to the constitution and other
legal remedies to allow Erdogan to become P.M. in several
months (ref B).

3. (U) The party program, which will become the new GOT's
program, calls among other things for:

--intensified efforts to reach EU standards of democracy;

--continued close work with the IMF;

--rapid action to combat unemployment (the number one voter
issue in Turkey), make the budget process more efficient and
more comprehensive (i.e., bring all but municipal budgets
under the central budget authority);

--transparency in Turkish governance (Erdogan pointedly
announced that the program is downloadable from AK's web site
"so that everyone in Turkey can see how well we stick to our

4. (C) In the follow-on question and answer period Erdogan,
who has now departed to pay a flying visit to northern
Cyprus, in underscoring AK's intention to be pragmatic and
open-minded on the UN plan to reach a Cyprus settlement,
acknowledged the need for compromise on both sides. (Note:
in a private meeting with us Nov. 15, AK Party number three
and probable speaker of Parliament Bulent Arinc criticized
the culture of nay-saying in the Turkish MFA with regard to
Cyprus and other regional issues. End note.)

5. (C) Gul bio:

--Abdullah Gul was born in 1950 into a poor but pious
working-class family in Kayseri in the Anatolian heartland
(father was a lathe operator). Graduated from Istanbul U.
economics faculty. Served as an associate professor of
industrial engineering at Sakarya U. Has the title of
Associate Professor of Economics. In the 1980's employed as
an economic expert at the Islamic Development Bank in Jiddah.
Entered Parliament in 1991 with the Islamist Refah Party of
Necmettin Erbakan. Served as a State Minister with foreign
policy responsibilities (in effect an internal shadow FonMin
given Refah's distrust of coalition partner and FonMin Tansu
Ciller) in the 1996-97 Erbakan-led government. Stayed with
Erbakan in Fazilet Party, which was formed after Refah was
banned, but then launched a reformist movement and narrowly
lost a direct challenge to Erbakan's hand-picked Fazilet
leader Recai Kutan for the party chairmanship. A founder of
AK Party in 2001. Speaks Arabic and fluent English.
Married, three children.

--Gul is a long-time, close contact of Embassy Ankara. He
has an excellent understanding of the American mind and of
U.S. foreign policy priorities. For years he served as a de
facto spokesman -- judged to be reasonable and open-minded by
Western and Islamist interlocutors -- for Refah and Fazilet
and has been an influential and moderate voice for
Islam-oriented politics in Turkey. A number of long-standing
embassy contacts has told us consistently that the
relationship between Gul and party chairman Erdogan is
complex. He is loyal to Erdogan but has his own ambitions
and occasionally in comments to us has chafed at his
subordination to the more rough-edged Erdogan. Both came
through the Erbakan movement ranks together with Gul
representing the more technocratic stream. While Erdogan is
far and away the most popular figure in AK, Gul has strong
grass-roots and parliamentary support of his own and has
built a formidable network of relations with politicians of
all stripes, bureaucrats, academics, and journalists.

--Gul has an obliging (mulayim) and courteous character
stemming from his modest and very pious upbringing. His
faith in Islam is rock solid, as is his courage of
convictions: Gul is no pushover. Comfortable with
intellectual and political give-and-take, he nevertheless
maintains his principles and is sincere in the belief that
Turkey must accept women in Islamic headscarves as full
participants in society. His wife passed the university
entrance exam but was denied matriculation owing to her
wearing of an Islamic headscarf; she currently has a case
against the Turkish government on this issue before the
European Court of Human Rights. He also firmly believes in
the need to redress the current imbalance in
civilian-military relations, privately telling us
forthrightly that if pushing this kind of democratic reform
would be considered "destabilizing" by the Kemalist
Establishment, "then so be it." This kind of comment,
combined with Gul's knowledge of the system and his smooth
manner, leads some Kemalist circles to fear that he would
succeed in implementing an Islamist agenda effectively. Gul
has the serene but focused temperament (huzur) similar to
that of late president Turgut Ozal. At the same time he is
untainted by the corruption surrounding the Ozal family and

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