Man in the Middle

Why Abdullah Gul Will Disappoint the West

Gul and Erdogan at a ceremony to mark Republic Day, October 29, 2013. Umit Bektas / Courtesy Reuters

Many observers, both in Turkey and abroad, believe that this is Turkish President Abdullah Gul's moment to shine. In recent months, Turkey's democracy has careened wildly off its democratic path, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resorted to increasingly authoritarian measures -- including a ban on access to Twitter and YouTube -- to suppress what he believes is an existential threat posed by his onetime ally Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic Turkish cleric who has followers in positions of influence throughout the government. Erdogan seems intent on trying to excise Gulenists from Turkish society entirely. Erdogan's paranoia has also moved the AKP toward becoming an authoritarian cult of personality.

This is where many Turks, Europeans, and Americans have hoped that Gul would step in to steer Turkey back onto a democratic course. In mid-February, Gunay Hilal Aygun, a columnist for the Gulen-affiliated Today’s Zaman, asked, “Will President Gul let the Turkish people

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