Turkish PM Erdoğan bids emotional farewell at ‘last’ party group meeting

Turkish PM Erdoğan bids emotional farewell at ‘last’ party group meeting

Turkish PM Erdoğan bids emotional farewell at ‘last’ party group meeting

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks at his party's parliamentary group meeting July 22. AA Photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan bid an emotional farewell to his fellow colleagues in Parliament yesterday, yet signaled that he would meet them again next month, only with a different title and at a different rostrum if he is elected president in August.

“If my nation grants me the authority and elects me [as president], if I become the 12th president of the Republic of Turkey, this will perhaps be the last speech that I deliver to you from this rostrum. Exactly for 13 years, I have addressed you from this rostrum,” Erdoğan said, addressing a meeting of parliamentary group of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) which he described as a “witness to a historic struggle.”

 “This rostrum has always, but always, been the rostrum of the nation,” said Erdoğan, with pride in his voice.

He explained his own political career too by explaining the story of his ruling party. Having been founded in August 2001, the AKP came to power for the first time in November 2002, then won the parliamentary elections in two consecutive terms, in 2007 and 2011.

“If my nation [elects me], I will not be with you at this rostrum, and I will not be able to address you from here. Of course, our conversations and fondness will continue at other rostrums, halls and grounds. Inshallah, our fraternity with old residents of this hall, with you and with the next residents of this hall will continue as long as I live,” Erdoğan said, underlining that “another colleague” would deliver speeches at that hall as the AKP leader and the prime minister if he is eventually elected president.

“I’m sure that the heart of both this rostrum and this hall will keep beating only and only for justice and nation, like it has been the case so far,” he added.

Erdoğan has been elected as a lawmaker for three consecutive terms since March 2003, when he entered Parliament for the first time through a by-election in the southeastern province of Siirt.

After being elected as a lawmaker in March 2003, Erdoğan took over the prime ministry from now-outgoing President Abdullah Gül, who had been the first-ever prime minister from the AKP. Gül remained in Erdoğan’s Cabinet until being elected president in August 2007 after months of tension and controversy. His election became possible only after the AKP government narrowly escaped an intervention by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in 2007 when military forces issued a warning against the candidacy of then-Foreign Minister Gül, mainly because his spouse wears a headscarf, which had been seen as an alarming symbol of “fundamentalism.”

Erdoğan’s speech yesterday was repeatedly interrupted by slogans chanted by the visitors watching the meeting, with some of them unable to stanch their tears.

The weekly party group meetings in Parliament have always been important in Turkish political life, but under Erdoğan’s rule, they were transformed into a typical routine of harsh mutual accusations between the government and opposition parties.

Erdoğan is competing with former Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) head Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who was nominated as a candidate by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in the first round of the elections on Aug. 10. If none of the candidates achieve one more than the 50 percent of the votes, a second round will take place on Aug. 24.