The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has announced Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as its candidate for the presidency. So there were no surprises… Erdoğan will now set out on the campaign trail against his opponents, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu and Selahattin Demirtaş in the next six weeks in his quest to become the 12th president of Turkey.
İhsanoğlu is the joint candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the conservative opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) yet he seems to lack the support of some of the CHP crowd. Demirtaş is the choice of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP) and is quite popular among the Kurdish masses.
The 12th president of the Turkish Republic will be elected for the first time by the Turkish people in a popular vote and thus will have both massive executive powers and moral political powers. Thus he will be the dominant political personality in Turkey despite the parliamentary system.
It is clear that sooner or later Erdoğan will be elected the president. In the first round of the presidential elections on Aug. 10 Erdoğan has to obtain more than 50 percent of the votes. The fact that Demirtaş could have an dampening effect on the Erdoğan votes as some Kurds who would like to reward the prime minister for his ongoing peace process may be tempted to vote for Demirtaş. Yet, if the opposition voters see that eventually Erdoğan will win and will be resigned to the fact that İhsanoğlu is a loser, they may not turn up at the polling stations and thus secure victory for the prime minister. If not, Erdoğan is bound to win in the second round a week later.
Now that Erdoğan is moving to the presidential palace, it will be important to know who will lead the AK Party and who will be the prime minister. Yet, those who say the AK Party will fall apart after Erdoğan and that the government will become unmanageable are mistaken, because Erdoğan will not be the "ordinary" president we are used to. He will have a commanding political role due to the fact that he was elected through popular vote and will thus be able to dominate the government and how the AK Party is run.
Erdoğan bets on eventually pushing Turkey into a presidential system and thus changing the foundations of the system. He has set out to build the "new Turkey" and the people have given him the mandate in the March 30 elections but they also told him "you have to lead this country some way or another" and that is what Erdoğan is doing.