Turkey's ruling AKP to convene key meet for presidency

Turkey's ruling AKP to convene key meet for presidency

Turkeys ruling AKP to convene key meet for presidency

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The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is intensifying internal consultations ahead of its decision on a presidential candidate, amid plans to hold a large meeting on the issue this weekend in the inner Aegean province of Afyonkarahisar.

More than 300 lawmakers and dozens of high-level executives from the AKP will come together in a three-day camp in a luxury hotel starting May 9.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will chair consultative meetings and will hold separate meetings with lawmakers and other party executives on May 10 and 11. Erdoğan is expected to make the opening speech of the camp on May 10 before the meetings go behind closed doors.

Similar AKP meetings in the past have been organized at a hotel in Kızılcahamam, a district in Ankara, but the party decided to change the venue this year because the hotel in the capital belongs to businessmen close to the movement of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic scholar with whom the AKP is now locked in a bitter struggle. Many AKP officials are concerned that their previous stays at the hotel might have been recorded by the hotel for the purposes of blackmail.

In a bid to avoid similar concerns, security forces scoured the Afyonkarahisar hotel to detect whether bugs had been placed in bedrooms and meeting rooms for eavesdropping purposes, daily Yeni Şafak reported yesterday. As an additional precaution, the participants of the meetings have been advised to come without their families. It also said high-level security measures would be taken inside and around the hotel to allow the AKP officials to have a comfortable two-day stay.

Presidency and post-presidency

The main agenda of the camp will be the upcoming presidential elections and the ruling party’s candidate for the polls to be held on Aug. 10. AKP deputy leader Mustafa Şentop is expected to brief all lawmakers about the elections procedures, as it will be the first time the head of state is elected through popular vote.

The parties will have to register their candidates by July 3 and the campaigning period will begin after the Supreme Election Board (YSK) finalizes the presidential contenders on July 11.

Ongoing internal consultations have already shown that AKP members and officials support the idea of Erdoğan running for president. Therefore, for many, this weekend’s meetings will rather focus on who will replace Erdoğan as the head of the AKP and become the next prime minister.

AKP deputy leader Mehmet Ali Şahin has previously hinted that one of the current deputy prime ministers could be appointed as prime minister in the event that Erdoğan is elected president in August.

Erdoğan will concentrate on the future of the AKP during the meetings while attempting to determine a correct choice for AKP chairman and the next prime minister in his absence. These consultations will also provide him with the fullest picture of a potential AKP under the leadership of current President Abdullah Gül after August.

Erdoğan, Gül to meet afterwards 

In a speech last month, Erdoğan said he would hold final talks with Gül after he completes his consultations within the party. Given both men’s heavy agenda and overseas trips, they will either meet next week or at the end of May, if not in early June.

Gül has already signaled that he would not like to become Erdoğan’s “yes-man” for prime minister, saying he had no political plans for the future under current conditions. Subsequently, however, he said he and Erdoğan would decide on who will run for presidential elections, recalling that there would be no problem between the two.

Fight against 'parallel structure'

Apart from presidential elections, the AKP will also discuss developments in the ongoing fight against the “parallel structure,” a code word for Gülen sympathizers in the police and judiciary.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ are expected to brief AKP officials about the process and provide information about legal actions taken against the group.