AFP – Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said his ruling party will announce its candidate for the presidency next week, amid wide expectations that he will himself seek the top post.
“We are holding final consultations and we will, God willing, announce our candidate on 1 July,” Erdogan told a meeting of lawmakers from his AKP ruling faction in the parliament on Tuesday.
“Afterwards, we will hit the roads to seek support from our nation,” he added.
But letting the intrigue persist until the last minute, he did not give any hints over whether he would run himself.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey’s political scene for 11 years, is widely believed to be planning to run for the presidency in the 10 August elections.
Turkish voters will, for the first time, be directly electing the head of state. Previously, the president had been elected by parliament.
Erdogan has been accused of increasing authoritarianism for his tough response to a series of crises over the past year, from mass street protests to a high-level corruption scandal and a deadly mining tragedy.
But Turkey’s strongman premier remains the most popular leader in the country among ordinary Turks and appears to have set his sights on becoming a “people’s president”.
In a bid to shake up the race, Turkey’s two main opposition parties last week backed an Islamic-leaning intellectual to challenge Erdogan’s expected candidacy.
The Republican People’s Party and the Nationalist Movement Party threw their support behind Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, an experienced academic and diplomat, to run against Erdogan.
But the move was criticised by secular segments of society.