Recep Erdogan to return as chairman of the Turkey's ruling party, as changes from referendum kick in

Ankara: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to return as chairman of Turkey's ruling party on Sunday in a special Congress, swiftly exploiting a key change agreed in the controversial April referendum on expanding his powers.

Erdogan rejoined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on 2 May after the public approved changes to create an executive presidency on 16 April.

Under the old constitution, the head of state had to sever ties with their political party and Erdogan left as AKP chairman in August 2014 after his election as president.

Rejoining the AKP was the first major change permitted after the vote, allowing the president to be affiliated with a political party almost immediately.

Erdogan narrowly won with 51.4 percent of the vote but most of the new system, including axing the role of premier, will not come into force until 3 November, 2019.

However, as leader, he can decide the party's direction.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AFP

Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AFP

Current party leader and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim will be given a newly-created role of vice-chairman, AKP deputy chairman Hayati Yazici said on Saturday.

Erdogan led the party for three terms during his premiership between 2003 and 2014, after he co-founded it in 2001.

The father-of-four affectionately describes the most effective Islamic rooted political force in the history of modern Turkey as his fifth child.

After becoming a party member again in an emotional grand ceremony in Ankara, Erdogan said he had "returned to my home, my passion, my love".

With Erdogan as party leader, all eyes will be on the Cabinet, with Hurriyet Daily speculating that 8-10 ministers could be reshuffled.

Nearly 1,500 delegates will vote to decide the new party leader, state-run news agency Anadolu reported, in an election where there is only one candidate, Erdogan. If chosen, it will be the first time the president will be both party chairman and head of state since the end of the presidency in 1950 of Ismet Inonu, the successor and right-hand-man of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's modern founder.

In the capital and on social media posters and images have appeared of Erdogan and slogans such as "iron will, strong Turkey" and "full steam ahead with the founding leader".

A special Congress slogan reads "a new breakthrough period: Democracy, transformation, reform", hinting at the expected restructuring of the government as well as changes to the party's executive in the coming weeks and months.

He told party officials, "The new period means a new action plan," without giving details, Hurriyet reported on Saturday.

Up to 60,000 participants from across Turkey are expected to descend on Ankara for the congress in the stadium in the city centre, Anadolu reported.

Updated Date: May 21, 2017 11:40 AM

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