Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told his lawmakers that he is still undecided as to whether he will pursue the presidency, but he vowed to use the full powers given by the Constitution if he is elected president in the popular vote, scheduled for August, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Erdogan convened with his lawmakers April 16 in a meeting that provided a good opportunity for the prime minister to take the pulse of his parliamentary group in his bid to shape a road map for the August presidential elections.
"If I step into the [Çankaya Presidential Palace], I will be the people's President. I will use my full constitutional competences," Erdogan was reportedly told his lawmakers at a meeting at the Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters, as debates about the transition into a semi-presidential or presidential system is still ongoing.
Erdogan argued that the President would de facto become the executive office for being elected by a popular vote. "The system has changed. There won't be any interregnum, because that would be the executive office. Meanwhile, we have many friends that could become Prime Minister," Erdogan said, while urging his charges not to speculate on the party's candidate.
"I have not made my decision yet. And I do not approve of pronouncing names [for the presidential bid] at this point. There will be no flood after me or with me. The most important thing is the institutional structure of our party," Erdogan. The meeting took place under strict security measures as no ministers and lawmakers were permitted to bring cell phones inside to prevent an illegal recording of the talks.
At the outset of the meeting, a questionnaire asking three questions was distributed to the lawmakers.
The first question was "Who do you want to see as president?" followed by "What are your thoughts about the three-term rule?" and a third asking for the lawmakers' general opinion about current developments. The deputies filled in the questionnaire and returned it to party management without identifying their names on the form.
Following the completion of the survey, Erdogan made an introductory statement in which he broadly expressed his views on the presidential elections. "In August, we will elect the next president through popular vote for the first time. I know you are curious about my views on this issue. But I have not made my decision yet," he said. "We are going to make consultations."
Recalling that the AKP had an institutional structure and will not be affected by changes in the leadership, Erdogan urged his group not to make comments about the fate of the party based on potential names that could lead it.
"With or without me, there will be no flood. The main thing is not names but the institution. Making assessments based on personalities would be wrong. That would also violate the rules of our cause. This movement is not dependent on personalities. I am here today and will perhaps not be here tomorrow, but this walk was there before me and will be here after me. There will be no problem at the party after me."
Erdogan said his consultations would not be limited to his party fellows and that he would also talk to NGOs, decision-makers and other important groups to look into how social consensus could be built for the presidential elections.
"We talked about this issue with the president [Abdullah Gül], and we'll continue to do so. We founded this party through consultations. We'll even ask it to the kid on the street. That was the method we followed for the presidential elections in 2007. The opinions of the ordinary men on the street are equally important to me," he said.