May 3 (UPI) — Turkey’s ruling political party nominated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Thursday as its candidate for next month’s early presidential elections, as opposition parties band together to challenge the incumbent leader.
All 316 members of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, voted to nominate Erdoğan for the presidency — giving him the support of the country’s ruling party and the Nationalist Movement Party.
“Some people may look for their presidential candidates by microscope, but we have already decided on our candidate. Our candidate is the man of the people,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said after the AKP group agreed on Erdoğan.
AKP became the first party to name a candidate for the Turkish presidency.
Meanwhile, opposition groups are expected to align before the June 24 election to challenge the dominance of Erdoğan’s party.
The coalition, which is expected to be announced Thursday, will include the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, the İyi Party, the Islamist Saadet Party and Democrat Party.
The deal will likely break through Erdoğan’s AKP hold on the legislature and overcome the rule that any party must receive 10 percent of the national vote to win a seat in parliament — a regulation that has reinforced Erdoğan’s long-running majority.
Although Erdoğan is favored to win the presidency, a larger opposition in parliament could pose a challenge to the president’s power.
Last month, Erdoğan moved up the presidential and parliamentary elections to more than a year early.
Erdoğan said the vote, originally scheduled for November 2019, was moved up to accelerate Turkey’s change from a primarily parliament system to one giving the president more executive authority.
Calling for the early elections could solidify Erdoğan’s hold on power — a move the Turkish president has been eager to make after a failed military coup in 2016.
“Although it seems like no serious issues emerge as the president and the government are working in harmony, the illnesses of the old system can counter us at every step,” Erdoğan said last month.
All positions in the 600-seat Turkish Parliament will be contested in next month’s vote.