ANKARA Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will almost certainly be announced next week as the ruling party's candidate for August's presidential election, deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc said on Wednesday.
It will be the first time Turk voted directly fortheir president. Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics formore than a decade, has made little secret of his ambition to stand for what he has said will be a stronger presidency."We pretty much know who our presidential candidate will be ... Barring any obstacles, on July 1, the nomination of our prime minister will most likely be announced," Arinc told Turkish media, in comments confirmed by his office.
Buoyed by the strong showing of his Islamist-rooted AK party in March municipal elections, when it took 43 percent of the national vote despite a corruption scandal and anti-government protests last summer, his aides have predicted he would win in the first round on Aug. 10.
Arinc said Erdogan had not faced any opposition during consultations on his potential candidacy.
"Every group he has held talks with has expressed a favourable view on his nomination. What remains is his own judgment," he said.
Erdogan has made it clear that the direct nature of the August vote will enable him to exercise stronger powers than the incumbent President Abdullah Gul, whose role over the past seven years has largely been ceremonial.
Speculation over who will succeed him as prime minister has mounted, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu seen as a possible contender, but Arinc said it was too soon to discuss the issue.
"We will be announcing our candidate on July 1 and who will become the prime minister, even temporarily, after that day are private matters not to be discussed now," he said.
Last week, the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said they had agreed to nominate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who stepped down in December as head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as their joint candidate for the presidential race.
(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Alison Williams)