The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) announced Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's candidacy on Tuesday for the first direct presidential election that will be held on Aug. 10.
AK Party announced the party decision at Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) Congress and Exhibition Hall, where a crowd of 4,000 specially invited guests were present to hear the announcement. Furthermore, around 250 journalists were also at the ATO hall.
Even though he is one of the most criticized leaders in Turkey's history, Erdogan is considered as the most influential Turkish leader after the founder of Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk by the majority of public. Winning every election that he ran for in the 12 years of AK Party ruling term, Erdogan's party displays a continuous increase in terms of his popularity amid Turkish citizens and AK Party grassroots trust in him. In 2002 general elections, which was the first election that AK Party ran after it was founded, AK Party garnered nearly 35 percent of the votes. This rate increased to 46.58 percent in 2007 general elections and to 49.83 percent in 2011 general elections. In the local elections, in which voters are more inclined to keep their voting trends in general, AK Party garnered 41.67 percent of votes in the 2004 local elections while this rate declined to 38.39 percent in the 2009 local elections. Contrary to the decline, 2014 local elections witnessed a sharp rise in AK Party votes and the party garnered 45.6 percent of the votes. The increasing success rate of AK Party with Erdogan and the acceptance of certain AK Party voters that Erdogan equals AK Party, arouses questions about whether the party without Erdogan (if elected president) will continue to keep this rate of achievement in the upcoming general elections to be held in 2015.