Turkey’s ruling AKP to announce candidate for presidency on July 1
Listeners show a portrait of Erdoğan in support for his possible presidential bid during the AKP's parliamentary group meeting, June 24.The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) long-awaited announcement regarding its candidate for the August presidential election will eventually be made next week, putting an end to speculation about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s potential run for the post.
It was Erdoğan himself who said on June 24 that his party would announce its candidate on July 1, two days before the official deadline. The announcement came as he addressed the regular weekly meeting of the AKP’s parliamentary group. These meetings are traditionally held every Tuesday, so July 1 coincides with the scheduled parliamentary group meeting as well.
“We will announce our candidate on Tuesday, July 1, God willing,” Erdoğan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade and who has made little secret of his ambition to stand for what he wants to be a stronger, more hands-on presidency.
“The presidency will no longer be a ceremonial post. The distance between the state and the people will be removed, they will embrace each other,” he added, vowing no changes in the course or goals of the party.
“I have particularity underlined this many times, I’m emphasizing once more, and I will do so on every occasion: No matter who is our candidate, there will be no change in the AK Party’s direction, enthusiasm, power and will,” Erdoğan said, in an apparent reference to speculation that without his leadership the AKP would become less effective and would be prone to internal divisions.
The speech delivered by Erdoğan later on June 24 was more reflective with regard to his well-known willingness to assume a de facto executive role, not a ceremonial one as outlined in the current Constitution, if he eventually becomes the first ever president of the country to be elected by direct vote.
He has long pushed for a constitutional amendment that will either introduce a presidential system or a partisan-president system in which the president-elect does not have to sever his party affiliation. However, his efforts have so far failed due to the opposition’s refusal to cooperate on such a change amendment.
“One would wish that Turkey could have transited into a presidential system, however amending the Constitution could not happen either during the current or the previous term [of the Parliament]. We believe that this new system can be implemented successfully in Turkey and that even strengthen stability and confidence,” Erdoğan said, as he delivered a speech at a gathering of ambassadors of EU member countries accredited in the Turkish capital city of Ankara.
“Starting from September, a new era will begin in Turkey. This new era will be an era during which reforms will be made more rapidly and with determination,” Erdoğan added.
Hours before Erdoğan’s statement on the exact day of announcement of their presidential candidate, AKP Secretary General Haluk İpek had told reporters that the announcement would be made on July 1, during a meeting at the Ankara Trade Chamber (ATO).
The official registration for presidential candidates will begin June 29 and end July 3.
Erdoğan is set to meet the leaders of the Great Union Party (BBP) and Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi), two political parties that are not represented at Parliament, before the end of this week. Following the meetings, Erdoğan will make a general assessment before officially announcing the AKP’s candidate.
The two main opposition parties at Parliament last week agreed on the name of former Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) head Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu as a joint opposition candidate.
'Public more or less knows our candidate'
Many AKP officials have strongly suggested that Erdoğan is their party’s most likely candidate, to replace incumbent Abdullah Gül.
As of June 23, during an official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah İşler hinted that Erdoğan would run for the post.
“The public more or less knows our candidate,” İşler said when asked about the upcoming elections.
He added that the result of the upcoming presidential election due on Aug. 10 was foreshadowed by the March 30 local elections, which saw the AKP win for the third time with over 45 percent of the vote.
“When you look at the outcomes of the local elections, you can see that the AK Party’s candidate will receive the majority of the votes in the first round, securing a landslide victory,” he added.
İşler also said the new president should not be an “outsider to politics,” in contrast with the joint opposition candidate İhsanoğlu.
“I don’t think the opposition’s joint candidate stands a chance to win,” he said.
İhsanoğlu was announced as the joint candidate of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on June 16. He is an experienced academic and diplomat, who stepped down in December as OIC head.
Turkey is set to elect a new president on Aug. 10 – the first time a president will be directly elected by the public.
If no candidate can secure more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round, a runoff will be held Aug. 24 between the top two candidates.
The presidential poll comes at the center of a busy election schedule, sandwiched between March’s local elections and the general elections in July 2015.