Turkish religious party to field presidential candidate – report

A Turkish political party with roots in the same Islamist movement as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will field a presidential candidate in elections next year.

The Felicity Party also expects several other political groups to put forward their own candidates in the poll, due by August 2019, leader Temel Karamollaoğlu said, according to the CNN Turk news channel.

Erdogan is seeking a mandate to carry Turkey through to its centenary in 2023 and to complete implementation of a full presidential system for the country, opposed by many opposition politicians.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has said it will field its own candidate, while the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) said earlier this week that it would back Erdogan. Meral Akşener, leader of the newly-formed IYI Party, is also set to run.

Erdogan won 51.9 percent of the vote four years ago, when he faced just two opponents; former Organisation of Islamic Cooperation General Secretary Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who was backed by 13 opposition parties including the MHP and CHP, and Selahattin Demirtaş, leader of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Demirtaş has since been jailed pending trial on terrorism charges.

The Turkish press has also speculated that Abdullah Gül, the former president, and ex-Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan may also put themselves forward. Both have served under Erdoğan.