The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) announced Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's candidacy on Tuesday for the first direct presidential election that will be held on Aug. 10.
AK Party announced the party decision at Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) Congress and Exhibition Hall, where a crowd of 4,000 specially invited guests were present to hear the announcement. Furthermore, around 250 journalists were also at the ATO hall.
After greeting the cheerful crowd with his wife Emine Erdoğan, who could not hold back her tears, the prime minister said, "I thank all my parliamentarian friends for nominating me as presidential candidate."
Commenting on president being not elected by the parliament but with a natiıonwide election, PM Erdoğan said, "President being directly chosen by the public is marking the end of tutelages-era in this country. We're not choosing a president against people, but a president that is elected by people. A president among the people."
PM Erdoğan later explained how he entered into politics and shared several experiences that he went through his political career and added that his presidential bid will not be "a farewell, in fact a new beginning, an opening. I also ask my wife and children to forgive me as I could not spend enough time with them due to my struggle for my country and nation."
After pointing out some of his governments' achievements through AK Party's 12 years of ruling, Erdoğan said, "We entered into politics for all those forgotten ones. We fought to dignify a civilization that was crawling face down. Thankfully we achieved this."
PM Erdoğan said, unlike in the past, the elected president will take an active role in drawing country's roadmap and added that he will not let the reconciliation process that is aimed to end the decades long conflict with the PKK to end. He also added that he will continue to combat against the shadowy movement -- which infiltrated police and judiciary with an aim to topple Turkish government -- led by US based controversial imam Fethullah Gülen.
"I pledge to work towards full membership in the European Union" PM Erdoğan said, reminding that Turkey opened accession talks with the EU during his ruling.
Even though he is one of the most criticized leaders in Turkey's history, Erdoğan is considered as the most influential Turkish leader after the founder of Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk by the majority of public. Winning every election that he ran for in the 12 years of AK Party ruling term, Erdoğan's party displays a continuous increase in terms of his popularity amid Turkish citizens and AK Party grassroots trust in him.
In 2002 general elections, which was the first election that AK Party ran after it was founded, AK Party garnered nearly 35 percent of the votes. This rate increased to 46.58 percent in 2007 general elections and to 49.83 percent in 2011 general elections. In the local elections, in which voters are more inclined to keep their voting trends in general, AK Party garnered 41.67 percent of votes in the 2004 local elections while this rate declined to 38.39 percent in the 2009 local elections.
Contrary to the decline, 2014 local elections witnessed a sharp rise in AK Party votes and the party garnered 45.6 percent of the votes. The increasing success rate of AK Party with Erdoğan and the acceptance of certain AK Party voters that Erdoğan equals AK Party, arouses questions about whether the party without Erdoğan will continue to keep this rate of achievement in the upcoming general elections to be held in 2015.