As it happened: Turkish PM Erdoğan enters presidential race, vows 'new era'
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and his wife Emine Erdoğan greet crowd as they enter in the hall. REUTERS Photo
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has confirmed expectations, announcing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as its candidate for the upcoming August presidential elections at a lavish presentation event on July 1, with the attendance of nearly 4,000 party members.
Erdoğan, who had previously made clear his aspiration to become the country’s first ever president to be directly elected by popular vote, described the August election as a “milestone” for a "new era" during his acceptance speech. “Those who ask for a 'neutral' president in reality want a president who will side with the state against the people. That era is now closed,” he said.
His name was officially announced by AKP Deputy Head Mehmet Ali Şahin, who stressed that the decision had been taken after long consultations, and that all AKP deputies backed the candidacy of the current prime minister.
All former and current lawmakers, mayors, central executive board members, congress delegates and provincial heads were gathered at the event, which took place amid huge fanfare, including a 3-D visual projection.
Here are live updates from the presentation event:
13:22 - Erdoğan ends his speech, saying he may not see AKP delegates in party meetings again if he is chosen president. “I hope this is not a farewell, an ending, an epilogue, but an opening,” he said
13:01 - "I didn't start this struggle [politics] after I was 60 years old. I've been in it since I was 18," Erdoğan said, in another indirect dig at Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who was a non-political international actor before his presidential nomination by Turkey's two major opposition parties.
12:55 - Erdoğan says a president elected by the popular vote will “boost Turkey,” adding that he believes he will get votes from "all political views." "If you chose [me] as president, [I will] be a president who protects the interests of the people and who sides with democracy and the people,” he says. “Turkey will become stronger with a president elected by the people,” he adds.
12:50 - Without directly naming him, Erdoğan slammed the two major opposition parties' joint candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu as "a statist against the nation."
12:47 - Erdoğan argued that the election of the president by popular vote was not a mere technical change, but signaled “the end of tutelage in Turkey.” “The presidency in Turkey has always been considered the office representing the state against the political government,” he said. “Aug. 10 will not only mean the election of a president, but also the end of tutelage. A president from the people will be elected, that will be the difference,” he added.
12:40 - "We are the nation. Who are you?" Erdoğan asked, slamming his opponents, in a signal that he may be preparing for another polarizing campaign.
12:34 - The two official slogans of Erdoğan's campaign have also been announced as, “National will, national power,” and “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the people’s man." Meanwhile, party officials said the logo with Erdoğan’s name symbolized “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
12:24 - “We are preparing for a journey to serve our people … I thank all my deputy friends who have put me forward as a candidate for the 12th presidency of the Turkish Republic,” said Erdoğan, after reading prayers onstage. He then read a poem to the audience, before mentioning an anecdote from the time he ran to become Istanbul mayor in 1994. “We have done politics for God and the nation,” he said.
12:08 - Erdoğan takes the stage for his acceptance speech.
11:50 - A second video clip is being screened at the convention hall, after the announcement of Erdoğan’s name.
11:47 - Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan will run as the AKP candidate in the presidential elections, Şahin announces. "The candidate for the 12th president is our prime minister, the head of our party and Istanbul deputy Recep Tayyip Erdoğan," said Şahin, to wild applause in the hall.
11:43 – AKP Deputy Head Mehmet Ali Şahin starts his speech. He is expected to finally unveil the name of the AKP’s presidential candidate soon.
11:37 – A video presentation is screened focusing on Erdoğan, containing images from various campaign rallies.
11:31 – PM Erdoğan takes the stage to greet the audience with his wife, Emine Erdoğan.
11:26 – Most guests arrived at the venue at 9:00, while some of them came as early as last night. The writing on one bus refers to Erdoğan: "We loved a brave man and that is you, master."
11:06 – The song "Zor Olsa da Dönemem Senin Yolundan" (I Can't Depart From Your Path Even Though It's Hard) is being played, alongside the ruling AKP's election campaign tune, adapted from the Kazakh song "Dombra." The song has become so popular among AKP voters that it is now even played at weddings:
10:58 – Seats of four different colors have been prepared in the Ankara Trade Chambers’ (ATO) Congresium, where the meeting is being held, based on the position of the officials. Around 4,000 AKP members as well as 250 journalists are expected to attend the meeting.
10:50 – The name of the candidate is expected to be unveiled by Deputy AKP head Mehmet Ali Şahin. The former parliamentary speaker and justice minister is also known as one of Erdoğan’s closest aides amid a friendship of over 35 years. He is also tipped as a potential prime ministerial candidate.
09:30 - Guests start to enter the hall.
The presentation comes just two days after President Abdullah Gül confirmed that he would not seek a second term, lifting some of the remaining uncertainty about his possible candidacy. AKP officials’ declarations signaling Erdoğan’s willingness to run for the presidential office was capped on June 28 with a statement by Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who said the prime minister was “the most appropriate candidate.”
The two main opposition parties in Parliament, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), agreed to nominate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, a former head of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as a joint candidate in a rather unexpected move.
People’s Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş also announced his candidacy June 30, becoming the second contender in the presidential race.