It has been confirmed that the prime minister of Turkey will now be running for president
It was announced on Tuesday that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to stand for presidency in the upcoming August elections, a move that would pave the way for him to stand at the helm of the country for at least another five years.
"The candidate for the 12th president (of modern Turkey) is our prime minister, head of our party and Istanbul lawmaker Recep Tayyip Erdogan," said Mehmet Ali Sahin, deputy leader of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The announcement - which put an end to months of speculation - was made at a glitzy ceremony at Ankara's Chamber of Commerce attended by some 4,000 AKP party members as well as the premier and his wife Emine.
If he wins the elections, Erdogan, 60, would serve as president until 2019, with the possibility of a second mandate, making him Turkey's longest serving leader since the founder of the modern Turkish republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
However, Erdogan's move to switch from the premier's office to the Cankaya presidential palace in Ankara comes at the most turbulent moment in his over decade long domination of Turkey.
In June 2013, Erdogan faced criticism over Turkey's deadly handling of the Gezi Park protests. He's also faced allegations of corruption and criticism for his bans on social media. There were also more protests following the collapse of the Soma mine in which over 280 miners were killed.
Nevertheless, he has remained extremely popular and his party won a a huge victory in the local elections that took place in March which bodes very well for his standing in the upcoming Presidential elections in August.
'One man rule'
Still hailed by supporters for presiding over an economic transformation of Turkey, Erdogan is now accused by critics of seeking to run the country in the same way as a long-reigning Ottoman autocrat.
"Everything is being redesigned in a way towards a kind of one-man, one-party rule after the prime minister is elected president," commentator Mehmet Yilmaz wrote in the mass circulation Hurriyet daily.
"Turkey is being dragged towards one-man rule at full speed".
His candidacy means Erdogan's onetime close ally and co-founder of the Islamic-rooted AKP, incumbent president Abdullah Gul will be stepping aside with his political future uncertain.
Erdogan has said that the new president will have more capacities than the largely ceremonial role performed by previous incumbents, saying the head of state should be someone "who sweats, runs and works hard".
Despite his recent troubles, Erdogan still commands fervent support across the country especially from rural populations and religiously conservative small business owners who prospered under his rule.
The AKP scored a convincing victory in March local elections.
'Elected by the public'
Erdogan is widely expected to win the presidential elections, possibly outright in the first round without the need for a second round scheduled for August 24.
The elections are the first time the Turkish people directly elect the president, who was previously chosen by parliament.
"Today we are preparing for an election in which president will be elected by the public," said Sahin. "We, the AKP, have passed through a long process to select a candidate and held consultations with almost every circle."
To the surprise of many, the two main secular opposition parties fielded a devout intellectual - the former head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu - as a joint candidate to challenge the pious Erdogan.
But while Ihsanoglu will not alienate religious voters, the bespectacled and softly spoken academic has none of the charisma of the combative Erdogan.
Meanwhile the main pro-Kurdish party on Monday announced its candidate would be Selahattin Demirtas, an energetic and relatively dynamic figure who nonetheless is expected to struggle to break into double figures.
RT “@BenjaminHarvey: If you liked Erdogan PM 2003-2014, you're going to love Erdogan president 2014-2019. Good luck, Turkey.
— Nervana Mahmoud (@Nervana_1) July 1, 2014
Everything in place for #Erdogan's presidential bid: Thousands of supporters, a sentimental song, a video on his achievements. Here it comes
— Humeyra Pamuk (@PamukHum) July 1, 2014
Turkeys worst kept political secret about to be formally revealed:Erdogan running for President in move that cld see him rule another decade
— Joe Parkinson (@JoeWSJ) July 1, 2014
Erdogan's decades-long political ally MA Sahin's voice is noticeably shaking as he announces Erdogan will run for president
— Ayla Jean Yackley (@aylajean) July 1, 2014