PM Erdoğan gives ruling party local branches starting signal for presidential campaign

PM Erdoğan gives ruling party local branches starting signal for presidential campaign

PM Erdoğan gives ruling party local branches starting signal for presidential campaign

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks during meeting with AKP-member mayors from across the country in Ankara, June 11. AA PHoto

While still not officially announcing his candidacy, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used a gathering with executives from his ruling party’s local branches to publicly instruct them to begin campaigning for the upcoming presidential elections.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has arrived at the final point with regard to nominating its candidate for the presidency, Erdoğan said on June 11, delivering a speech at a meeting with AKP-member mayors from across the country.

“No matter who our candidate is, he will continue environment of stability and confidence with determination. God willing, Turkey’s economy will continue growing and our struggle against the parallel structure and our struggle concerning the resolution process will continue. Our party’s policies are not dependent upon individuals,” he said.

In his speech, the prime minister set the main themes of the upcoming campaigning as being the struggle against the so-called “parallel state” allegedly working to overthrow the government, as well as the peace process aimed at ending the three-decade long clashes between the Turkish security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The ruling AKP is currently facing renewed criticism over its loyalty to the principles of nationalism, in the face of growing opposition criticism following the recent removal of a Turkish flag at an Air Force base in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

“If any change happens, you shall have no doubt that it will be a change that will strengthen both the AK Party [AKP] and Turkey,” Erdoğan said, referring to possible changes of posts in the presidency, the prime ministry, and in the AKP leadership.

“We shall altogether begin working for Aug. 10, without relaxing, because Aug. 10 is also the signal flare for the 2015 elections, do not forget this,” he added, referring to the country’s tight election agenda.

There are just 10 months between August’s presidential elections and the parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2015.

The president of Turkey will be elected with an absolute majority of valid votes. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the first round scheduled for Aug. 10, a second round of voting will take place on Aug. 24 between the two candidates who received the most votes in the first round.

In partial reruns of the March 30 local polls, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost out in two provinces on June 1, but won in five of 13 district municipalities.

Setting the tone

In his June 11 speech, Erdoğan again vowed to continue the fight against the “parallel state,” referring to followers of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has been in voluntary exile in the United States for over a decade.

Charging the Gülen movement with plotting against Turkey, Erdoğan repeated calls for AKP mayors to withdraw their support from individuals and legal entities affiliated with the movement.

“It is obvious, they also have a business organization,” he said, in an apparent reference to the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON), which is known to have close ties with the Gülen movement.

“For years, we have trusted their sincerity and we have lent support to them within the law as a requirement of this sincerity. But from now on they should never get support from us,” Erdoğan said.

The prime minister also vowed his determination to proceed with the stalled peace process, accusing all opposition parties of “insecurity” with regard to both their “understanding of nationalism” and their “will for living in peace with Kurdish people.”