Turkey’s moderate president bows out – for now

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Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul moves out of the presidential palace in Ankara on Thursday an isolated figure, frozen out of the new government, with his wife Hayrunnisa complaining bitterly of smears against her husband.

But few believe he will go quietly into the political wilderness, never to return.

Gul’s undoubted political stature means that he will remain a potential force should the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffer splits and lose popularity in the future.

Gul, 63, co-founded the AKP with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his successor as head of state and for much of the last decade his political blood brother.

But in recent months the growing split between Turkey’s two best known political figures has become all too apparent, with Gul becoming a focus for those tired of Erdogan’s authoritarian streak.

Gul had broken ranks with Erdogan, notably by criticising the policing of mass protests in 2013 that rocked the government.

He has also promoted better ties with the West and did not share Erdogan’s disappointment over the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt.

But a day after Erdogan won an outright victory in the August 10 presidential vote, Gul brushed aside speculation that he might join a new political movement and said it was “only natural for me to return to my party”.

In line with Turkish law which states the president should be politically neutral, Gul severed all his ties with the AKP while in office.