ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling party is expected to name Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as its candidate in August presidential polls on Tuesday, potentially extending his dominance to become the longest serving leader since Ataturk.Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is due to end months of speculation by announcing its candidate at Ankara’s Chamber of Commerce, but there is little suspense left.
Taking the presidency would allow Erdogan to extend an extraordinary 11-year period in power that has already seen him tame the military, return Islam to public life and oversee rapid economic growth.
At a time when he is increasingly under fire from opponents for ruling like an Ottoman autocrat, the presidency would also see him stay in power until at least 2019 and make him Turkey’s longest serving leader since its modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Statements by top AKP ministers have all but confirmed Erdogan’s candidature already, as incumbent President Abdullah Gul prepares to step aside.
“Prime Minister Erdogan is very likely to be our candidate,” said Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.
“If God allows us, the nomination of our prime minister will most probably be announced,” he said.
The election on August 10—followed by a second round if required on August 24—will be the first time ever that Turks have directly elected their president. Previously, the president has been chosen by parliament.
Over the past year, Erdogan has endured one of the most turbulent periods of his rule with violent street protests across the country and vehement criticism of his government’s handling of the Soma mine disaster in May that killed 301 workers.
Also with a vast corruption scandal that went to the heart of Erdogan’s party and family, critics say his uncompromising stance has left Turkish society more polarized than ever.