ISTANBUL Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will be Turkey's next president until 2023 and parliament will change the constitution to bestow more powers on the office, a senior party official said on Saturday.
Turkey's most dominant politician in generations, Erdogan has said he will run for office if his party asks him to, but has yet to announce his candidacy for an August election.
The three-time prime minister is widely expected to become Turkey's first directly elected president after constitutional changes made in 2007. So far he has no rival for the race.
"Erdogan will continue to serve the people. In fact he will continue as president," said Mehmet Ali Sahin, deputy chairman of the ruling AK Party and a former cabinet minister.
Sahin said he expected the AK Party to take more seats in a 2015 general election, enough to change the constitution and allow Erdogan to remain the head of his party, rather than being a supposedly neutral head of state, as is currently required.
"That way Erdogan will be president as a member of a political party, and he will continue to serve our people until 2023," Sahin said in comments broadcast by NTV news channel.
Erdogan remains Turkey's most popular politician despite a corruption scandal and last year's anti-government protests, the biggest Turkey has since in more than 30 years.
Under current rules, the president must cut ties with political parties and has powers that are largely ceremonial. The office is now held by Erdogan's political ally Abdullah Gul.
The party failed to gather enough support from rival parties in parliament to change the constitution in a push in 2011.
Even without a change in the charter, Erdogan is expected to stamp his strong personality on the office and give it more authority, exercising its full powers if elected.
Opposition parties have not yet come up with their own candidates but warn that a President Erdogan with greater powers, a strong grip on most state institutions and few challengers, would make Turkey a more autocratic place.
(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)