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December 31, 2012, Monday

Political puzzle for 2013

Every crossword puzzle conceals a critical word at its center. If you can’t find it, would be very hard for you to find other words in its immediate vicinity.

On the other hand, you cannot make a learned guess if you cannot find one or more of the words nearby. At the center of the puzzle is the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). 2013 will be a year of abrupt changes. Two important elections slated for 2014 -- presidential and municipal elections -- will shape developments in 2013. Both elections are enough to ensure that the AK Party leaves behind the last 12 years and makes a fresh start.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attaches great importance to the future of his own work and his party, especially its future after his departure. He cannot use it as a stepping-stone and leave it to its own destiny after he becomes president. Therefore, it is inevitable for him to make certain decisive moves within the party so as to ensure that his presidential term will be problem-free and the future of his beloved party is secured. The Constitutional Court’s decision that paves the way for Abdullah Gül to serve as a president for another five-year term has reinforced Gül’s weight and influence within the AK Party and his likelihood of running for president. This means that the AK Party’s future will be rife with harsher rivalries.

The AK Party bylaws’ ban on party members’ running for Parliament for more than three consecutive terms is leaving key party executives outside the puzzle, and this brings additional opportunities for Gül. Gül is an experienced politician. And he knows his rival, Erdoğan, very well. Unlike Erdoğan, he does not act on impulse, can make good calculations on political balances and can adapt to realities more easily. If Gül places weight on intra-party equilibrium, this will be decisive to political hopefuls. So in 2013, Gül will make his appearance on the political scene as one of the actors that can change intra-party balances within the AK Party.

Another critical word in our crossword puzzle is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Every winter, the PKK suspends its violent attacks and retreats to camps in the mountains. It makes preparations for the spring when the terrorism season reopens. Thus, it uses the language of peace in winter and the language of violence in summer. Something different has happened: The prime minister publicly called on the PKK to lay down its arms. This surprising call has the potential to reshuffle the puzzle. In addition to this call, Erdoğan also announced that the government is having talks with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, currently serving a life sentence in a prison on İmralı Island off the İstanbul coast. These matters are so delicate that nothing said about them will be coincidental. Apparently, the prime minister is trying to mobilize public support in order to force the PKK to abandon violence.

Two players in the puzzle are enemies of one another. The AK Party knows it cannot rely on the PKK. Erdoğan cannot make moves by solely relying on the PKK. If he does, he will lose everything. This is because the PKK will do everything to undermine the AK Party using this initiative. By calling on the PKK to quit violence altogether in winter, the prime minister is making a very critical move. This move can be seen as his effort to get the 2013 puzzle under control before it starts to unfold in spring. How? The prime minister’s call means Öcalan will be relocated to the delicate equilibrium within the PKK.

So it follows, there are two people who can solve the puzzle in 2013: Abdullah Gül and Abdullah Öcalan. In 2013, we will closely monitor these two people in order to solve the continuously changing Turkish politics.

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