Turhish President Erdoğan rejoins ruling AK Party

Turkey’s ruling AK Party awaits return of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will hold a ceremony on May 2 to welcome the return of its founder, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, marking a first in Turkish politics as the head of state is able to formally retain links with a political party in line with recently approved constitutional changes.

“We can announce that our president and the founder of our party will regain his membership of the AK Party at a forthcoming ceremony,” Yasin Aktay, the spokesperson of the AKP, told reporters after a lengthy party meeting on May 1.

The ceremony will include all party officials, AKP lawmakers and other related officials, Aktay said.

Erdoğan will first make his request to register with the AKP and will then address the party on May 2 before he is re-elected as party chairman through an extraordinary convention slated for May 21.

“We envisage the electon of our president as the chairman at the convention,” Aktay stressed.

The AKP’s Central Executive Committee (MYK) and Central Decision Board (MKYK) were convened on May 1 to discuss the details of Erdoğan’s return to the party and the upcoming extraordinary convention.

Erdoğan had chaired the AKP for 13 years from 2001 but had to step aside when he was elected president in August 2014, as the constitution prevented presidents from being affiliated with a political party on the grounds of the impartiality of the president. He was replaced first by former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and then Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.

Yıldırım will leave the chairmanship of the AKP just before May 21 and the party will elect Erdoğan as the new chair. The constitutional amendment that was approved by the April 16 referendum paves the way for the president to retain membership of a party, as the amendment removed the provision blocking the party affiliation.

Although the system change will be stipulated after parliamentary and presidential elections, which are expected to be held in 2019, certain articles of the amendment go into effect immediately including possible party membership of the president.

As Erdoğan is expected to be the only candidate for the AKP leadership in the upcoming congress, the “new era” in the ruling party will likely commence with changes in the executive and the cabinet.

Prime Minister Yıldırım had earlier hinted that the government is anticipating a cabinet revision, ahead of preparations for a new campaigning process for the 2019 election.

The cabinet change, in which six or seven ministers are expected to be changed, and the changes in the executive branch are planned to be realised within the same time period. The party is not planning to make the cabinet amendment before its extraordinary congress.

Apart from the changes in the AKP’s top officials, the party is also planning to renew its metropolitan and provincial organizations, as well as the local administrations that it holds, within the framework of the 2019 election preparation.

After “No” votes prevailed in Turkey’s largest cities Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir in the recent referendum, the AKP is focused on refreshing its local organizations.

The party has established a committee to evaluate the referendum performance, which will prepare a report for President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Yıldırım. The committee will investigate the reasons behind the decrease in the AKP’s votes in big cities, while establishing a strategy for the 2019 election.

The 11-member committee, which will be presided over by AKP Deputy Chairman Hayati Yazıcı, will include AKP officials Mustafa Ataş, Mehdi Eker and Cevdet Yılmaz, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ.

The committee’s work will investigate voter behavior and tendencies in the referendum, examining local administrations’ performances across the country. The effectiveness of individual lawmakers within their electoral districts will also be assessed.