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Iran Press TV

Turkey's Erdogan set to reassume presidency of ruling party AKP

Iran Press TV

Sun May 21, 2017 1:1PM

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is slated to reassume the chairmanship role in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) more than a month after a controversial referendum boosted his powers.

Erdogan was to be elected as the head of AKP in a special congress of the party in Ankara on Sunday.

The president is the sole candidate contesting the internal votes and will replace Prime Minister Binali Yildirim as the chairman of the AKP.

Erdogan left the AKP in August 2014 after he became the first directly-elected president of Turkey. The old constitution demanded the head of state cease membership in any political party. He rejoined the AKP on May 2, more than two weeks after voters endorsed the expansion of his powers and allowed the establishment of an executive presidency at the expense of the collapse of the post of prime minister.

AKP is preparing for general elections in 2019. The party seeks to reach a more decisive majority in the parliament and Erdogan's reappointment as the head of the party would allow him day-to-day control over its decision making and strategy.

The changes proposed by the AKP and Erdogan narrowly won in the April 16 referendum with 51.4 percent of the votes. However, the party should wait until elections on November 3, 2019 to benefit from the full benefits of the new presidential system, including the axing of the role of the prime minister.

The referendum drew huge ire from the opposition and governments in the West who said that it was meant to consolidate the ruling party's grip on power nearly a year after the government launched a massive crackdown on those believed to have played a role in the bloody July 15, 2016 coup. More than 100,000 people have been arrested or discharged from their jobs as Erdogan and AKP seek even harsher actions on the alleged putschists.

Reports have suggested that Erdogan plans significant changes in AKP's structure and the way the government functions. He told party officials on Saturday that "the new period means a new action plan", without elaborating.

"A new breakthrough period: democracy, transformation, reform", read slogans of the AKP outside the congress on Sunday.

Hours before the start of the congress, Erdogan briefly addressed thousands who gathered inside the Ankara sports arena and its surroundings.

"My dear fellow travelers ... we were separated but today we are together once again," said Erdogan while throwing flowers into the crowds from the top of a bus. The president said delightfully he was resuming his old job after a 998-day absence. Images of him appeared on street billboards with slogans such as "iron will, strong Turkey" and "full steam ahead with the founding leader."

The party congress is expected to last for the entire Saturday as Yildirim and then Erdogan give speeches before voting takes place.

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