Abdullah Gül – The Islamic Calvinist
Announced AKP's presidential candidate on the 13th of August, Gül was elected as Turkey’s 11th president.
Abdullah Gul is from Kayseri – the conservative province in the heartland of Anatolia, the socioeconomic dynamics of which are analyzed in depth by the ESI report "Islamic Calvinists: Change and Conservatism in Central Anatolia".
Gul entered Istanbul University in 1968 - this was a period of ideological polarization and violence in Turkish Universities. Student movements on the right and left clashed until the 1971 coup. Gül was within the Milli Turk Talebe Birligi which had a conservative identity at the time and was confronted by the leftist groups. Upon graduation he went to London with a scholarship from a conservative foundation, to learn English and pursue his doctoral work.
Gul obtained a PhD from Istanbul University and pursued an academic career for 3 years teaching economics at Sakarya University before he moved to Jeddah as an economist at the Islamic Development Bank. He remained in Jeddah between 1983 and 1991. He received an invitation to be a Welfare Party Candidate when he was visiting Kayseri, still living in Jeddah. With the insistence of his friends in the Party, he accepted and was placed at the top of the candidate list.
Gul entered parliament first in 1991 on the Welfare Party ticket. The 90s were a decade of short-lived governments and political infighting. In 1995, although the Welfare Party received the most votes, it was left out of government because the other parties with seats in the Parliament formed a coalition. The government fell within a year and a Welfare Party-DYP coalition was formed in 1996 June.
Gül was Minister of State and Government Spokesman for this government until 1997. The government was forced to resign on the grounds of not executing the new "recommendations" towards preventing the rise of Islamic movements decided on 28 February 1997 by the Military-controlled National Security Council. The Constitutional Court banned the Welfare Party soon after. Called the 28 February process or ‘post´-modern coup’, this incident also included a manipulation of the Turkish media, by the bureaucracy and military, to convince the public that the regime was under threat. This was a defining point in modern Turkish politics.
Gül's third term in Parliament began in 1999 with the Virtue Party, a successor of Welfare. Gül was a leading figure in a new movement that formed within the Virtue Party, demanding a more participatory and rational approach to doing politics. Gül put his candidacy forth against Chairman of Virtue Party Recai Kutan but lost. He and his friends established AKP in August 2001. AKP won the elections with a victory enabling it to be a single party government in November 2002.
Gül served as Prime Minister between November 2002 and March 2003 because the party chairman Tayyip Erdogan was banned from politics. He stepped down when this problem was solved to become Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Under his Ministership Turkey has pursued the EU integration goal consistently and developed relations with neighbors proactively.
There are some, particularly among the supporters of the Kemalist CHP and in the military, who view the fact that Gül's wife is the first first lady having a headscarf as in contradiction to Turkey's secularism. For more on this debate: Sex and Power in Turkey, Islam, and the maturing of Turkish democracy.