Turkish President Re-appointed as AKP Leader

Published May 22nd, 2017 - 05:00 GMT
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives flowers to his supporters upon his arrival at the Extraordinary Congress of the ruling AKP (AFP)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives flowers to his supporters upon his arrival at the Extraordinary Congress of the ruling AKP (AFP)

Delegates of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reappointed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as leader at a gathering at a sports arena in the capital Ankara.

Tens of thousands of supporters of the conservative-Islamic party gathered for the congress, with giant screens placed outside the venue for those who could not enter.

Erdogan, the only candidate for the job, gave a sprawling speech that lasted about 1 hour and 45 minutes before delegates approved him for the leadership role with more than 95 per cent of the 1,470 eligible people voting in favour. 

During the lecture, in which he often employed religious language, Erdogan said the ongoing state-of-emergency would not be lifted soon and vowed to continue with the war against terrorism. He said the event marked a "new start" and pledged reforms. 

Timothy Ash, an economist who follows Turkey, noted that the state of emergency is "un-nerving local and foreign investors and causing lots of capital flight."

Under Turkey's constitution, Erdogan was was forced to step down as AKP chief in 2014 after he was elected president. A constitutional referendum passed last month, however, did away with a clause stating the president had to be non-partisan.

Erdogan, who continued to wield influence in the party he helped found some 15 years ago, has formally been away from the helm for 998 days.

The referendum - the results of which were contested by the opposition on claims of voter fraud in a tight race - also vastly expanded the powers of the presidency, raising concerns about checks and balances and growing authoritarianism.

Erdogan and his supporters say the new powers, most of which will kick in after the next general election expected in 2019, will help bring stability to the country and grow the economy. 

The president pledged faster economic expansion, addressing the congress, in a second speech after he was appointed, which lasted another 10 minutes. 

Turkey has been in a state of emergency since an abortive coup attempt last year, giving the government wide ranging powers to rule by decree.

Since then, more than 100,000 people have been purged from the civil service and military while about 47,000 have been arrested, accused of involvement or links to the putschists. More than 10,000 Kurdish activists and alleged militants are also jailed.

Erdogan replaces Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at the helm of the party. Yildirim, who was largely seen as a placeholder, will remain in the party leadership.

Last week, Erdogan was in Washington to meet President Donald Trump, after visiting India, China and Russia. In the coming days, he will head to Brussels for a NATO summit.

By Shabtai Gold

© 2022 dpa GmbH

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