ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s ruling AK Party will announce its candidate for the August presidential election at a parliamentary group meeting next Tuesday, with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan widely expected to be its choice.
It will be the first time Turks have voted directly for their president. Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, has made little secret of his ambition to stand for what he has said will be a stronger presidency.
“We will announce our candidate on July 1st, Tuesday, God willing,” Erdogan told an AK Party meeting in a speech broadcast on Turkish television.
“The presidency will no longer be a ceremonial post. The distance between the state and the people will be removed, they will embrace each other,” he added, vowing no changes in the course or goals of the party.
Buoyed by the strong showing of his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March municipal elections, when it took 43 percent of the national vote despite a corruption scandal and anti-government protests last summer, his aides have predicted his victory in the first round on Aug. 10.
Last week, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said they had agreed to nominate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who stepped down in December as head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as their joint candidate for the presidential race.
Details of an opinion poll published on Tuesday indicated that Erdogan could win the election in the first round vote on Aug. 10. If no candidate wins a majority in that vote, a second round will be held on Aug. 24.
The survey by the pollster Sonar showed Erdogan securing 52.6 percent of the vote, after the distribution of undecided voters, with Ihsanoglu expected to win 40.3 percent of the votes, according to data published by Vatan newspaper.
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) is also expected to announce its candidate this week. In the Sonar poll, their candidate was forecast to win support of 7.1 percent.
The survey was based on responses from 2,800 people in 26 provinces, but did not say exactly when it was conducted.
Writing by Ece Toksabay and Daren Butler; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Hugh Lawson/Nick Tattersall