ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday roused tens of thousands of supporters with a call for a strong and new Turkey, as he held his final mass rally ahead of presidential polls he is widely expected to win.
“God willing a new Turkey will be established tomorrow. A strong Turkey will be born out of its ashes once more tomorrow,” Erdogan told cheering loyalists in the conservative central Anatolian city of Konya.
Konya is known as the bastion of his Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the rally marked the culmination of almost 30 mass election meetings Erdogan has held up and down the country since early July.
Turkey will for the first time vote directly for its next president today, with Erdogan looking set to continue more than a decade of domination over the country as head of state.
Previous Turkish presidents, including outgoing Abdullah Gul, have performed largely ceremonial functions but Erdogan has made no secret that he would be a different kind of head of state who “sweats and runs around”.
He has called for constitutional changes after the 2015 general election to give the presidency US-style executive powers. In his final rally, Erdogan vowed he would raise Turkey’s democratic standards and economic record to create a “world leader and global power”.
He said: “There is no unattainable dream or unattainable objective for this nation. The 12 years we have passed are a witness to this.”
Erdogan’s ruling party has presided over a dynamic economy having won every election since it came to power in 2002.
A recent survey found that Erdogan would win in the first round with 57 percent of the vote against his rivals — the main opposition candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas.
“You elected the people’s party on November 3 (2002) and God willing, you will elect the people’s president tomorrow,” Erdogan said in Konya.
He also boasted Turkey’s foreign policy would be “more proactive” under his tenure.
“We will be the advocate of justice in the world,” he said.
A former Islamic firebrand, Erdogan has often bashed Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and compared the offensive in Gaza to “Hitler-like fascism”.
Erdogan, a famously tough campaigner, mercilessly mocked his political opponents at election rallies across the country.
Yesterday, he accused Demirtas’s pro-Kurdish HDP party of “Kurdish nationalism”, and the Nationalist Movement Party of “Turkish nationalism” while calling the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), whose strongholds are on the Aegean coast, as the “party of coasts”.