Erdogan, who must resign from the party to become president, makes no secret of his wish to keep a deciding influence on it.
Apparently impressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s arrangement with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, he is reported to want a replacement, who will be very much under his shadow.
Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davurtoglu seems to fit the bill, although Transport Minister Binali Yildirim’s name has also come up.
Erdogan also wants to keep tight control of the party.
But Gul, who cofounded the AKP with Erdogan, on Monday announced that he would be rejoining the party when he quits the president’s job, and there is little doubt that he would seek the party leadership.
The party’s executive then announced that the special conference to choose a new party chief will be held the 27 August, the day before Erdogan is sworn in, meaning that Gul will still be barred from party membership.
Party officials denied the choice of date had anything to do with Gul.
But all Ankara now awaits the outgoing president’s next move with speculation that he could resign early in the hope of rallying leading party members unhappy with Erdogan’s intention of running the AKP and the government by remote control.
The former comrades-in-arms are believed to have had their differences over recent years.
When the government tried to ban the use of Facebook and Twitter during anti-Erdogan protests last year, he declared that he would continue to tweet.
The brewing crisis is not a good sign for a party that will soon have to fight a general election.
Nor does it bode well for Erdogan’s plan to strengthen the president’s powers.
To do that he must change the constitution, which would require votes in parliament than the AKP can currently muster even if it remains united.
He may hope that an early general election will bring more MPs, although his own election win was less convincing than some polls had predicted, a result that weakened his standing in the party.
If there’s also a revolt in the AKP that could mean electoral victory leads to political crisis.