Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was on Friday to announce his vision for a “new Turkey” heading to 2023, at a rally in Istanbul as he prepares to stand in August presidential polls.
Erdogan, Turkey’s most powerful figure for over a decade, is seeking in the August polls to cement his grip on the country by switching to the post of president which he could theoretically hold for two five-year terms.
In the rally in Istanbul at a congress centre overlooking the Golden Horn and attended by thousands of supporters, academics and celebrities, Erdogan is expected to announce a new set of targets for Turkey heading to 2023.
Ever with an eye on history, the year 2023 has huge importance for Erdogan as it will mark the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the modern Turkish state by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The centrepiece of the speech starting from midday GMT is to be the unveiling of a new policy document entitled “Democracy, Welfare and Respect on the Path to a New Turkey,” the pro-Erdogan dailies Sabah and Yeni Safak reported.
It vows that this “new Turkey” will be a bigger player on the international stage, a more unified state for a increasingly diverse society and with a more developed economy.
“The new Turkey embraces its society which has become more plural and diverse. The new Turkey rises upon social welfare, a prosperous economy, political stability and advanced democracy,” the document says, according to the media.
It sets out four main goals which are advancing democracy, ensuring the normalisation of politics and society, improving social welfare and being among the leading nations of the world.
Erdogan has long eyed increasing Turkey’s global influence by becoming a major player on the diplomatic stage, prompting comparisons with the ambitions of the Ottoman Empire.
– More inclusive Turkey? –
According to the reports, he is expected to influence inclusiveness to create a Turkey where large ethnic and religious minorities like Kurds as well as Alevis — who adhere to an offshoot of Shia Islam — feel more at home.
Erdogan is expected by most analysts to easily win the election, possibly in the first round, despite a turbulent past year that saw the most significant protests yet against his rule.
The prime minister proudly touts his record of presiding over an economic transformation of Turkey but critics now accuse him of increasingly autocratic tendencies.
Moreover, the secular opposition fears his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) is eroding the strict separation of religion and state that Ataturk made the basis of modern Turkey.
If he takes the presidency, Erdogan could be courting danger by seeking to transform a post that until now has been a largely ceremonial job without making constitutional changes first.
But it remains to be seen if his main opponent, the former diplomat Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu who was put forward as a joint candidate by the secular opposition, can mount much of a fight.
Ihsanoglu, a softly-spoken academic with none of Erdogan’s charisma, kicked off his campaign on Thursday at an elite Istanbul Bosphorus hotel and unveiled a slogan, “Ekmeleddin for bread”, that was widely lampooned on social networks.
Meanwhile the success of the third candidate, Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) will be crucial in determining if the poll goes to a second round.
The AKP-dominated parliament on Thursday adopted a bill to revive peace talks with Kurdish rebels, in a clear government move to woo Kurdish votes.
Those expected to attend the rally include the AKP elite as well as Turkish celebrities like the singer Sezen Aksu.