Erdogan back as head of AK Party

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By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS
Erdogan back as head of AK Party

The Turkish president has been elected leader of the governing AK Party.

We prefer to stand tall today against the scum at home and abroad

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkish President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become the first president to lead a party since 1950. He took over the reins from Binali Yildirim, who will remain as prime minister until elections set for 2019.

What does this mean?

Analysts say the move will enable Erdogan to reassert his grip on the party and its legislative work.

He founded the Islamist-rooted AKP in 2001 and led it to victory in a general election a year later.

However, he had to renounce the leadership nearly three years ago when he was elected president. The position is traditionally above party politics.

Restored in the position of party leader, Erdogan is expected to streamline his economic team to try to speed up decisions and reassure markets that ministers are working to the same plan, sources say.

In a speech lasting an hour and 45 minutes, he said he wanted a “serious renewal” of the party by the end of the year.

19 of the AKP’s 50-member executive board were changed on Sunday.

Why has the situation changed?

Because of April’s referendum. Voters in Turkey narrowly backed constitutional changes creating an executive presidency with sweeping new powers.

One of these is allowing the head of state to be a party member or leader.

What Erdogan said

His renewed control of the party coincides with growing foreign policy challenges and tensions with NATO allies.

“Rather than facing our people with our heads down tomorrow, we prefer to stand tall today against the scum at home and abroad,” the president told thousands of cheering supporters in the Ankara sports arena.

“The months ahead will be a leap forward for Turkey, from its fight against terrorism to the economy, from the broadening of rights and freedoms to investments.”

What do critics say?

Opposition parties, which want the referendum annulled because of alleged irregularities, say the reforms push Turkey towards one-person rule.

Some of Ankara’s NATO allies as well as the EU have also expressed concern.

What about Turkey’s state of emergency?

Erdogan has vowed to keep it in place until the end of all conflict with Kurdish and Islamist insurgents.