Assad to run for 2014 election; 15 killed in air raids

Updated 16 January 2013
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Assad to run for 2014 election; 15 killed in air raids

DAMASCUS/MOSCOW: Syria's President Bashar Assad may defy calls to step down and stand for election in 2014, an official said, as his army yesterday pounded rebel zones with shells and air strikes, killing dozens.
In a bloody day for Syria as it marked 22 months since the eruption of an anti-regime revolt that has morphed into a fullscale civil war, a bomb rocked Aleppo University in the country's north killing at least 15 people, while 45 others died in shellings and air raids elsewhere, a watchdog said.
The latest violence came a day after a senior official said Assad should be allowed to run for election in 2014.
"We are opening the way for democracy, or deeper democracy. In a democracy you don't tell somebody not to run," said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad in an interview with the BBC on Monday.
He repeated the Syrian regime's insistence that calls for Assad to step down immediately are foreign-backed and illegitimate.
"It is a coup d'etat if we listen to what those armed groups and those elements of Syria are proposing," said Muqdad.
"The president now and many other candidates who may run (in the 2014 elections) will go to the people, put their programs and be elected by the people," Muqdad told the BBC.
Muqdad's remarks come after Assad unveiled in a rare speech on Jan. 5 in Damascus his own three-step peace initiative for the strife-torn country.
He offered dialogue with the opposition to end the conflict — but only with elements he deemed acceptable, not rebel-affiliated groups he termed "killers" and "terrorists" manipulated by foreign powers.
His plan was rejected outright by the entire opposition as well as by the West, and it was criticised heavily by UN-Arab League peace envoy Brahimi who termed it "one-sided."
The United Nations says that more than 60,000 people have died in the Syria conflict which began 22 months ago, on March 15, 2011, with peaceful protests that erupted into deadly violence in the wake of a harsh regime crackdown.
Contradictory reports meanwhile emerged on the origin of yesterda's blast in Aleppo University, which struck the campus on the first day of exams.
"The explosion caused casualties among both students on their first day of exams, and people displaced from areas of the city damaged by terrorist attacks and who have sought refuge in the university complex," said the official SANA news agency.
State television blamed "terrorists," without specifying the nature of the explosion, while anti-regime activists said it was the caused by an air strike.
A military official in Aleppo told AFP the explosion occurred after rebels tried to shoot down a warplane with a missile, but failed to hit their target.
Other sources said a car bomb attack was behind the blast.
Elsewhere in Syria, an artillery attack on the town of Houla in the central province of Homs meanwhile killed 12 people, including seven minors, the Observatory said.
In Homs city, warplanes struck the besieged districts of Jobar and Sultaniyeh, while in the northern province of Aleppo, an air raid in on the rebel-held town of Al-Bab killed at least eight people, including three women and two children.
Near Damascus, warplanes raided the southeast and northeast outskirts of the capital, where the army is pressing its bid to take back rebel strongholds, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers across Syria to compile its reports.


Speculation mounts over Abdullah Gul’s election ambitions

Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul, left, is seen with Saadet Party leader Temel Karamollaoglu during a ceremony in Istanbul on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 27 April 2018
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Speculation mounts over Abdullah Gul’s election ambitions

  • Gul and Erdogan have mostly followed the same political paths and a religiously conservative ideology
  • A split between the two men recently erupted when Gul criticized the controversial state of emergency decree law

 ANKARA: Rumors are rife in Turkey that former President Abdullah Gul could emerge as a possible contender against his once close political ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the June elections.

Gul, who along with Erdogan was among the founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, has met with opposition leaders amid speculation he could run as a presidential candidate for the main opposition alliance.

Erdogan called the snap election, which will select the president and Parliament members, last week, catching opposition parties off guard. 

Gul and Erdogan have mostly followed the same political paths and a religiously conservative ideology.

However, Gul, who served as Turkey’s president from 2007 to 2014, has increasingly criticized Erdogan’s handling of the aftermath of an attempted coup in 2016. 

A split between the two men recently erupted when Gul criticized the controversial state of emergency decree law that exempted civilians who fought against the coup attempt in 2016 from criminal liability. 

Slams Erdogan

He also openly slammed the repeated extension of the state of emergency in Turkey, which has been in place since the coup, and called for normalization in the country.

With his conciliatory approach to politics and leadership in the rapprochement process with Armenia and the Kurds in Turkey, Gul was widely respected by the international community as president.

Asked about speculation on Gul’s candidacy, Erdogan said on Tuesday: “I don’t have a problem with that.”

“Alliances with the sole motivation of hostility toward Erdogan are being formed,” he added. 

If nominated by the opposition camp, Gul is expected to announce a manifesto that promises a return to the parliamentary system by abolishing the executive presidential changes to the constitution approved by a controversial referendum last year. 

He is also said to be announcing a new constitutional draft and suggesting an alternative council of ministers focused on improving the Turkish economy.

The deadline to submit applications for the presidential candidacy is May 4.

Gul held talks with the leader of the Islamist Felicity Party (SP), Temel Karamollaoglu, on Wednesday and met former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara a day earlier, according to Turkey’s pro-government daily Haber Turk.

Other opposition figures are also meeting to discuss alliances for the election on June 24. Karamollaoglu met Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Meral Aksener, who heads the right-wing nationalist Good Party (Iyi Parti).

Electoral opportunity

Kilicdaroglu has described the upcoming elections as an opportunity to salvage the country from what the opposition claims is Erdogan’s increasingly draconian rule. 

“Abdullah Gul’s name is not on the CHP agenda,” said Ozgur Ozel, parliamentary group leader of CHP. But the SP still insists on his candidacy. 

According to experts, for the other candidates to surpass Erdogan they will need the votes of all the other opposition parties and some of the AKP constituencies.

Polls show that Erdogan, who has dominated the top rungs of power in the country for more than 15 years, enjoys about 50 percent of voter support. 

“This means that a candidate would need to appeal to Turkish nationalists, Kurdish nationalists, Islamists and secularists in order to get more votes than Erdogan who has a much more solid base,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News. 

Gul appears to be the best alternative in this regard, experts said.

However, the decision by the newly founded Iyi Party on whether they would join other opposition parties to nominate Gul as the opposition block candidate would be critical. 

If Erdogan does not win the presidency in the first round of voting — by securing at least 50 percent plus one vote — then a second round will be held within two weeks. 

If the race is between more than two candidates, Erdogan would win the presidency again, said Dr. Emre Erdogan, co-founder of an Istanbul-based research company, Infakto Research Workshop.

“Hence, the calculus of Gul’s move is simple: Exchanging mid-to-long-term uncertain gains, with certain short-term victories, namely being the next president of Turkey,” he told Arab News.

Nominating conservative Gul will cost the CHP some ultra-secular votes, but considering the discipline of its voters, the price will be minuscule and easily compensated by Kurdish voters who favor Gul, Dr. Emre Erdogan said.

“Among all alternative scenarios, only the nomination of Gul seems to be the one with the highest potential to influence the outcome,” he said.