Turks will head to the polls for the first time to elect their president in 2014. Turkish presidents were formerly elected by Parliament. Surveys show that 53 percent of voters intend to cast their ballots for Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP Party has been in power since 2002 in a decade marked by an unprecedented economic boom during which Turkey became the world's 16th economic power and an emerging regional power. Turkey's ambition is to become one of the world's ten most powerful economies by 2023. If he were to win the five-year presidential mandate in 2014, Erdogan would be one of the main political actors in the region and the world. So far 41 percent of voters say they will vote for Erdogan, according to polls, while only 6.4 percent say they will cast their ballot for his Social Democratic opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
But before the vote takes place, Erdogan wants to change the constitution to make Turkey a US-style presidential system.
The constitutional reform is currently under discussion and should be approved by the end of the year. The AKP Party has the absolute majority in Parliament, though changing the constitution requires backing from the opposition. If he fails to reach an agreement, Erdogan could call a popular referendum.
The Turkish press has recently linked Erdogan to Vladimir Putin for his authoritarian management of power, his strong rhetoric, his populism and the likely exchange of power with party member Abdullah Gul, who would probably become prime minister if Erdogan is elected president - much like Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.
The opposition currently appears too weak to play a significant role. The Republic People's Party (CHP) of Kilicdaroglu is not expected to total more than 25 percent of the vote; the ultra-nationalist 'Grey Wolves' of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are estimated at around 10 percent while the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party will probably total 6 percent of votes.
Taha Akyol, an analyst with the Hurriyet newspaper is sure that Erdogan will be Turkey's next president and Gul will become premier. The AKP leader is working hard to make sure he does win by opening his party to small centre-right groups and by launching his candidature at the helm of AKP for another four-year mandate in order to control the party during the elections.
He has also ordered the restoration of the splendid Ottoman Mabeyn palace in Istanbul to make it the second residence of the Turkish president in the Bosphorus city of which Erdogan was previously mayor and which he reportedly loves so much that he would like to see as the country's capital.
The next presidential mandate from 2014 to 2019 will be crucial for a country at the centre of an increasingly volatile area with Iran, Syria, Iraq, Armenia and Israel. The Cypriot crisis is also still open, EU membership is at an impasse, the country's stance in the Mediterranean, Asia and the Balkans must be consolidated and the Kurdish conflict closed. Leyla Zana, a leading politician in Kurdistan, has paid Erdogan an unexpected homage saying he is the only politician who has the possibility of ending the conflict. (ANSAmed)