World Bulletin / News Desk
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is convening its much-anticipated ordinary congress on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. at Ankara Arena sports hall in the Turkish capital.
Thousands of visitors began to flock to the sports hall in the early hours of the day to attend the fourth ordinary congress of the party, which is expected to attract 40,000 people, including hundreds of reporters, delegates and visitors.
The AK Party wants to turn the convention into a major show of solidarity among the party rank and file while trying to lure as many as 80 foreign dignitaries, including Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.,
Yemeni Nobel leace laureate Tawakul Karman and the mother and sister of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who triggered the Arab Spring when he set himself on fire on Dec. 17, 2010, are also expected to attend Sunday's congress as guests of honor.
The congress will be translated into English, French, Russian, Portuguese and Arabic for foreign participants and it will be aired live outside the sports hall on a large television screen for those who cannot get in. Turkish TV channels will also broadcast the congress live for Turkish citizens.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the AK Party, earlier said he would announce a shake-up of his party at Sunday's meeting. He plans to designate officials to steer the party to local, presidential and general elections in the next three years and outline policy goals leading up to the country's centenary in 2023.
Erdoğan will run for the party leadership for the last time because party guidelines bar members from holding posts for more than three consecutive terms. But Erdoğan is widely expected to run for presidential elections in 2014 when, observers say, he could hand over the party's reins to a trusted confidant and retain some control over both the running of the party and government.
The prime minister has said he favors changing Turkey's political system to a strong presidential one similar to that of the United States, although opposition leaders have balked at the idea of an all-powerful presidency.
The AK Party swept to power in 2002 on the heels of an economic crisis and went on to win elections by commanding margins in 2007 and 2011. It maintained the country's system of secular politics, but undercut the political power of the military, which had staged three coups since the 1960s and forced an Islamist government out of office in 1997.