Turkey’s president rejoins ruling party after referendum win

Turkey's president rejoins ruling party after referendum win

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s president on Tuesday rejoined the ruling party he co-founded in a step on his path toward solidifying his grip on power, following his narrow victory in last month’s referendum.

Most of the constitutional changes ushering in a presidential system, approved in the April 16 referendum, will take effect after the November 2019 election. But an amendment that reverses a requirement for the president to be non-partisan and cut ties with their party come into effect immediately, allowing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to return to the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

The party is expected to re-elect Erdogan as its chairman at an extraordinary congress on May 21.

Erdogan symbolically signed a membership form in an emotional ceremony at the AKP’s headquarters, where some party members were seen weeping. Erdogan was also seen wiping his eyes with a handkerchief.

“I am today returning to my home, my love, my passion,” Erdogan said. “This yearning (for my party) is ending after 979 days.”

Erdogan, who was prime minister between 2003 and 2014, was forced to resign from the AKP when he became president. The father of four continued to lead the party — he once described it as his fifth child — from behind the scenes. For example, Erdogan had the final say on the list of candidates running for parliamentary seats.

The changes formalize a de-facto situation but also allow him to maintain a tighter grip on the party. Recent political history saw former Presidents Turgut Ozal and Suleyman Demirel lose control over their parties, after they become heads of state and left their parties.

“In effect, the existing, de-facto situation will become legal,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the Ankara office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

“Erdogan attaches as much importance to controlling his party as he does the new presidential system,” Unluhisarcikli said. “Political parties play an important part in the Turkish political system and a leader who controls a party holding a majority controls many things.”

Erdogan arrived at the AKP headquarters in a 13-vehicle motorcade, the five-minute journey broadcast live on television channels.

He was greeted at the entrance by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and other party executives.

“Welcome back to the home that you founded,” Yildirim said. “Today is a historic day for Turkish politics and its democracy.”

Yildirim reaffirmed that Erdogan would be nominated as chairman at the congress later this month.

Erdogan’s “yes” camp won the referendum with 51.4 per cent of the vote against 48.6 per cent for the “no” side, according to final results announced last week.

The main opposition party contested the outcome, citing irregularities, and is challenging the referendum at the European Court of Human Rights, following unsuccessful Turkish high court appeals.

During his speech Tuesday, Erdogan said, however, that the European court has no jurisdiction over the referendum.

“It has no right to intervene in this country’s internal affairs concerning elections,” Erdogan said.

The vote switches Turkey’s system from a parliamentary one to a presidential system, abolishing the office of prime minister while enhancing the president’s powers.

Critics fears the change will lead to a one-man authoritarian rule with too few checks and balances. Erdogan and his supporters argue that a strong presidency will bring stability and more efficient government.

Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Outbreak at Okanagan hospital

Gastrointestinal illness reported at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Kelowna public menorah lit tonight to celebrate Hanukkah

The menorah will be lit tonight after celebrations at 5 p.m. in Stuart Park

Big Band supports children with disabilities in Lake Country

Proceeds from the Okanagan Big Band performance in Vernon supports local kids

Were your hockey cards stolen?

The Kelowna RCMP are looking to reunite a hockey fan with their cards

RCMP look to reunite owner with stolen tools

Kelowna police seek to identify the owner of tablet and tools seized by RCMP

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Warriors ground Rockets in Moose Jaw

Moose Jaw scores five in the third period to down Kelowna in Rockets’ third game of prairie road trip

Horgan says pot smokers may face same outdoor rules as cigarette smokers

B.C. is developing its rules on recreational marijuana

Dedicated volunteers look for clues

Police appreciate work of those who provide extra eyes for missing women investigations.

Truck driver volunteers to take dog lost in B.C. back home to Alberta

Frankie, a pit bull service dog, was found wandering in the Lower Mainland

B.C. teacher suspended after explicit images projected to class

Jeffrey Rohin Muthanna had been viewing porn on a school laptop for two years

Man who pledged to give B.C. hockey team millions charged with fraud

Mike Gould has since repaid $8,000 he allegedly owed Cranbrook restaurant, owner says

Horgan on Site C: ‘dammed’ if did, ‘dammed’ if he didn’t

B.C. premier didn’t like keeping massive hydro damn project going, but felt he had to

Strong economy fuels housing sales in B.C.: report

Economist says demand for houses is being supported by a large number of millennials entering the market

Most Read