Erdogan re-elected as leader of his party

Turkish President re-elected as leader of the ruling AK Party. He was the only candidate.

Ben Ariel ,

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected on Sunday as leader of Turkey's ruling party.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) re-elected Erdogan, its co-founder, at a congress where he was the only candidate for chairman, reported The Associated Press.

The move comes after Erdogan scored a narrow victory in a referendum last month to expand the powers of the Turkish presidency, which now allows him to be both the head of state and of a political party.

Speaking to tens of thousands of people in Ankara, Erdogan said he was back after "998 days of separation" from the party and outlined a vision for its immediate future and elections scheduled for November 2019 with new executive and grassroots teams.

"This congress is the AK Party's rebirth," he said before the vote, according to AP. "AK Party is not just its voters' party, it's the party for all of our 80 million citizens."

"The upcoming months will be a period of soaring in all areas, including combatting terror, the economy, expanding rights and freedoms and investments," he added.

Erdogan was forced to cut his formal ties to the party when he became the country's first directly elected president in 2014. Last month's referendum, however, eliminated a constitutional requirement mandating that presidents be neutral and cut ties with their political parties.

The constitutional reform was first introduced in late 2015. Critics of the reform say it would essentially turn Turkey into a dictatorship. Erdogan’s supporters reject this notion.

Turkey's election authority has rejected opposition requests to cancel the referendum over alleged violations.

The vote took place under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of last year's failed coup. Erdogan on Sunday defended the state of emergency and said it would remain in place "until the situation reaches peace and welfare." He claimed it had not affected civil rights.

Turkey blames the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for the July 15 coup attempt.

Gulen, who leads a popular movement called Hizmet from exile, split from Erdogan over a corruption scandal in 2013. Erdogan has long accused him of running a parallel state from abroad.

Gulen denies he was responsible for the coup and has hinted that the uprising could have been “staged” by the government.