Three candidates have announced their nomination for Turkey's president, the highest public office in the land: (1) The candidate of pro-Kurdish HDP (Peoples' Democratic Party) Selahattin Demirtaş; (2) the joint candidate of the nationalist, leftist and Kemalist circles, conservative Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu; and (3) the conservative-democrat AK Party's candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will compete for this respectable post. According to the first polls, Prime Minister Erdoğan is expected to win the first round with more that 50 percent of the votes.
In his speech after Erdoğan announced his candidacy, he stated that his intent was to become the president of the whole nation. He further noted that he will continue with the reforms required for attaining full membership to the EU.
While Erdoğan's success in this election is almost certain, the main topic has now become the post-Erdoğan era. Everyone is curious about who will be the new leader of the AK Party, which has not been announced yet. But due to the AK Party's internal bylaws, many names who are currently in the administration of the AK Party are automatically disqualified.
The AK Party's internal bylaws do not allow any members who have been successively elected for three times as a member of the Parliament to run for the fourth term. As a result, only two names from the charismatic high ranking officers (upper-level management) are qualified to become the new leader.
One of these names is Vice President Numan Kurtulmuş who joined the party in the recent periods. The other one is Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who acted as an adviser to the prime minister. We also need to mention current President Abdullah Gül, who is also one of the founders of the party. Therefore, the AK Party will move on with one of these names; Kurtulmuş, Gül or Davutoğlu.
A surprise candidate from within the party might also emerge. There are many young, talented, well-educated politicians with leadership skills. If the three-term rule is changed with the resolution of the party's base; names that have not demonstrated leadership skills but are technocrats such as Binali Yıldırım or Mehmet Ali Şahin will also have the chance to run for leadership.
In the short-term, who will be the leader of the AK Party and the government is not extremely crucial. Even when Erdoğan, one of the founders of the AK Party sits as the president elected by the public; he will still be highly influential on the party.
The members of the AK Party have already stated very clearly that they will remain loyal to Erdoğan. Therefore, whoever becomes the leader of the AK Party in the post-Erdoğan era, that name would have to completely cooperate and collaborate with Erdoğan.
While this name may not get the chance to rule the party in his own terms and style; he will most definitely shape the party in the mid and longterm.
However, he will only be able to establish his own political stance after Erdoğan retires from politics.
It is also apparent that the AK Party will remain in Turkish politics in the long-run. Researchers who examine Turkish politics need to take into consideration that the AK Party now has a permanent and firm supporter base and this supporter base is currently the most dominant and prevalent actor in Turkish politics.