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Turkey's Erdogan Criticizes Spy Chief's Election Bid

  • Reuters

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 24, 2015.

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 24, 2015.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he did not welcome a decision by the country's powerful spy chief to quit and run for parliament, signaling a possible rift over plans for looming elections among the ruling elite.

Erdogan's reaction to the move by Hakan Fidan, one of his main allies, surprised commentators who had widely predicted the intelligence chief would stand in June elections -- and depicted it as part of a plan to strengthen the ruling party's power base in parliament.

“I don't view his candidacy positively. I said this to the prime minister,” Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul airport on Sunday.

The president did not spell out his reasons. But analysts suggested Erdogan may have intervened because he had come to rely on Fidan at the helm of the intelligence agency.

“Hakan Fidan is Erdogan's man in Turkey's intelligence community. He is at the center of the Kurdish peace talks ... and Turkey's Syrian policy. Who can replace him?” asked Jonathan Friedman, senior associate at Stroz Friedberg.

President to remain impartial

The Turkish constitution demands that the president remains impartial, and Erdogan acknowledged Fidan's candidacy was a matter for loyalist Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

“I have no authority to interfere in that (decision). I don't have the right,” the president said.

But Erdogan has made little secret of his determination to keep a firm grip on politics and the ruling AK Party since he ascended from the office of prime minister last year.

Any split between Erdogan and Davutoglu would concern investors, said Friedman, “because if they have a falling out, then all bets are off for Turkey's political stability.”

The opposition has regularly criticized Erdogan for continuing to involve himself in daily politics.

Fidan, who has so far made no comment, had been tipped by many as a potential foreign minister.

Since taking over at the MIT intelligence agency in 2010, Fidan has been central to tackling a hacking scandal in which secretly recorded conversations suggesting wrongdoing by top officials were leaked online.

Erdogan has dismissed the scandal as an attempt to unseat him by supporters of his former ally turned arch rival, the U.S. based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

Fidan's departure comes at a difficult time regionally for Turkey, with mounting security threats posed by instability along its Iraq and Syria borders.

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