Erdoğan to take chairman’s seat at ruling party congress
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will convene an extraordinary congress on May 21, during which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will regain his party leadership and announce the party’s new action plan for the 2019 elections – an announcement that will also determine Turkey’s near-term course.
The extraordinary congress will make Erdoğan the de jure leader again after three years, as last month’s approval of constitutional amendments, which lifted a provision banning presidents from retaining affiliations with political parties, paved the way for him to regain his party membership.
The presidential system stipulated by the amendment will go into full effect after the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2019. However, in the run-up to the elections, Erdoğan will serve as a “partisan president” starting with the congress.
“Our congress will be the precursor of a determined march for a stronger Turkey. And in this period, Turkey will meet the partisan president in its true meaning,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on May 16, hinting at the importance of the messages that Erdoğan will convey at the congress.
“This will reflect on the 80 million [Turkey’s population] as new hopes and new targets, and the architect of this will be Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” he said, underlining the road map of the AKP as the “process to leap forward.”
With the close results of the April 16 referendum indicative of the party’s possible strategy in the near future, the congress will be an important event determining the future steps of the ruling party.
The AKP has already formed an intra-party board to examine the referendum results and submitted a report to Erdoğan. As such, his messages could carry further meaning for the party organizations in order to evaluate the campaign process.
“In the new period, we will have a new action plan, and I will personally supervise the actions to be executed,” Erdoğan told party officials who have stated that the future steps to be taken by the party will focus on “eliminating the perception that society is polarized.”
Regulation amendment for parliamentary group leader
According to the Political Party Law, the parliamentary group chair has to be a lawmaker and the position has to be held by the leader of the party. As Yıldırım will hand over his party leadership to Erdoğan at the congress, he will also automatically step down from his parliamentary group chair position. However, since Erdoğan is not a lawmaker, legally he cannot preside over AKP’s parliamentary group.
In order to overcome the legal problem, the AKP has made a move to change its party regulation to designate an acting leadership position at the congress. This amendment, which will be in effect until the 2019 elections, will pave the way for Yıldırım to regain his parliamentary group chairperson position as the “acting leader” of the party.
The AKP group will convene on May 24 to elect Yıldırım as the parliamentary group leader in a closed meeting.
Party management, cabinet to be revised
Another important aspect of the congress will be an expected reshuffle of the party’s management and cabinet. It was reported that there will be extensive changes to the Central Decision and Management Board (MKYK) of the party, and that there will be an important marker for the future policies of the party as the “skeleton crew” of Erdoğan will also mark Turkey’s policies.
It is expected that Erdoğan will not just reshuffle names from lawmakers and the party organization but will also include names with whom he has been working in his presidential office.
A comprehensive cabinet reshuffle involving eight to 10 ministers is also expected.
Message of unity
The congress, in which more than 60,000 participants from Turkey’s 81 different provinces are expected to attend, will also provide an opportunity to give a message of “unity” for the party. Accordingly, Erdoğan, Yıldırım and former Prime Minister and AKP leader Ahmet Davutoğlu will gather, but former President Abdullah Gül will not attend the congress.