(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
ANKARA - President Tayyip Erdogan pledged to fight Turkey's enemies at home and abroad on Sunday as he was elected leader of the ruling AK Party, a move enabling him to reassert his grip on the party and its legislative work.
Erdogan, who founded the Islamist-rooted AKP in 2001 and led it to victory in a general election a year later, had to give up its leadership nearly three years ago when he was elected president, a position traditionally above party politics.
That changed with April's referendum in which Turks narrowly backed constitutional changes creating an executive presidency with sweeping new powers. Allowing the head of state to be a party member or leader was among the reforms.
Erdogan's renewed control of the party, which came in a near unanimous vote at an AKP congress where he faced no opposition, coincides with growing foreign policy challenges and tensions with NATO allies.
"Rather than facing our people with our heads down tomorrow, we prefer to stand tall today against the scum at home and abroad," he told thousands of cheering supporters in the Ankara sports arena.
"The months ahead will be a leap forward for Turkey, from its fight against terrorism to the economy, from the broadening of rights and freedoms to investments," he said in a brief speech after the vote.
Erdogan vowed to keep Turkey's state of emergency until peace is achieved against Kurdish and Islamist insurgents.
He became the first president to lead a party since 1950, taking back the AKP reins from Binali Yildirim, who remains prime minister until elections set for 2019.