ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted he would be willing to run for president in next year’s elections, a move analysts have been expecting of the conservative premier who is approaching his term limit.
“For the moment, nothing is certain,” Erdogan said in a television interview late on Thursday, when asked whether he would run in the August 2014 poll, the first in which the head of state will be elected by voters instead of parliament. “I will perform whatever function my party sets out for me,” he said, referring to the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Under party rules, Erdogan will not be able to hold on to the premiership after legislative elections in 2015. The party limits its members to three successive mandates and Erodgan, who has been premier since 2003, is currently in his third term as prime minister.
Observers say Erdogan is setting his sights on the presidency, currently a largely ceremonial role, hoping to change the constitution to give the president US-style executive powers before running for the post himself next year.
AKP lawmakers have said they plan to introduce several constitutional amendments, including one on the post of president, but have not yet done so because opposition parties in parliament fiercely oppose them.
Turkey’s current President Abdullah Gul, who founded AKP with Erdogan in 2001 but has lately been at odds with the ambitious premier, has not yet said whether he would run again and Erdogan on Thursday ruled out a direct confrontation between the two. “I am sure that there will not be any differences within our party,” he said.
Disagreements between Erdogan and Gul came to the fore during anti-government protests that engulfed Turkey in June, when the president called for dialogue with the demonstrators while the premier described them as “looters,” “vandals” and “extremists” executing a plot “hatched by traitors and their foreign accomplices.”
The 59-year-old Erdogan has been accused by critics of being power-hungry and trying to impose a conservative and Islamic-tinted agenda on the predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular country. His supporters hail him for steering the country towards economic growth and relative stability after years of rocky coalition governments.