Turkey’s ruling party affirms Davutoglu as leader ahead of elections


Istanbul (dpa) – Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reaffirmed Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as its leader in an uncontested election on Saturday at a party convention ahead of parliamentary elections slated for November 1.

Davutoglu took over the leadership last year after party founder Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president after serving as prime minister for 11 years.

In elections in June, Davutoglu oversaw the party’s failure to secure a parliamentary majority for the first time since it swept to power in 2002.

None of the four parties elected in June secured a majority and coalition talks failed.

Erdogan in August then called snap elections which will take place amid worsening violence between the state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a conflict that has claimed more than 200 lives inside Turkey since a ceasefire broke down in July.

Davutoglu, in a speech to the conference, pledged to carry the party to victory in November and blamed the PKK, along with the Islamic State and hardline leftist groups for trying to undermine the AKP, an Islamic-rooted party.

He also accused “foreign powers” of working with these groups to cause “chaos” in Turkey, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported from the party conference in the capital Ankara.

The party decided to a suspend long-standing rule that members cannot hold a post for more than three terms, a restriction that has recently led to problems for veteran politicians seeking to remain in office.

Public opinion surveys have indicated voters have not significantly altered their views in recent months and may again elect a hung parliament later this year.

There is growing tension between the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the AKP over the conflict with the PKK. AKP officials accuse the HDP of having ties to militants, though these allegations are strongly denied.

The HDP, in turn, blame the AKP for the renewal of violence, which is mostly affecting the largely-Kurdish south-east of the country.

The conflict between the PKK and the state, which began in 1984, has claimed more than 40,000 lives. The AKP and the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan held peace talks and the armed group announced a ceasefire in 2013.

However, the negotiations stagnated early this year, angering many among the Kurdish minority, who make up at least 15 per cent of the country. Ocalan remains in jail, where he has been since 1999.

No delegation has been able to visit Ocalan since April, under government orders, despite objections from the HDP.

The PKK, a leftist group, started as a separatist organization but has since moderated its stance to demanding greater autonomy and more rights for the Kurds, claiming there is systematic discrimination.

AKP officials have insisted the elections will take place, despite the ongoing violence and curfews in place in numerous districts across the south-east.

The AKP congress included 1,145 delegates and about 40,000 people were at the event in Ankara, according to pro-government media outlets, including the Sabah newspaper. Davutoglu received the nod from 1,353 delegates.