President Erdoğan elected chairman of AKP

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ANKARA, TURKEY - MAY 21: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets supporters during the third extraordinary congress of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in Ankara, Turkey on May 21, 2017. AFP

President Recep Tayyip Edoğan has been elected the new chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) after a 998-day absence from the party, during the party’s third extraordinary congress held at the Ankara Sports Hall, the t24 news website reported.

According to the report, Erdoğan received the votes of 1,414 party members in an election in which he was only candidate.

Before the election, Erdoğan reshuffled the AKP’s Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), with 19 members of the 50-seat board changed. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, who handed over the party leadership to Erdoğan, became “acting chairman” of MKYK after a change to the AKP bylaws.

In a speech delivered to the crowd at the congress, President Erdoğan rebuffed domestic and international calls for putting an end to an ongoing state of emergency (OHAL) and called for the continuance of a witch-hunt targeting the faith-based Gülen movement.

“They ask when OHAL will be lifted. In my country, there was an attempt to destroy the state. How can you ask when OHAL will be lifted? It will not be lifted. Why should OHAL be lifted before this county reaches peace and prosperity?”

The ruling AKP government declared a state of emergency on July 20, five days after a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. On April 18 Parliament approved a three-month extension to emergency rule.

Erdoğan called for support for operations against the Gülen movement. “I call on all to give support. We will provide a more decisive struggle,” he said.

According to a statement from Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on May 6, 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt.

“There are currently 221,607 inmates in prisons. Prison capacity is 203,000, making them 9 percent over capacity,” said Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Basri Bağcı informed Parliament, saying that some inmates have to sleep in shifts.

Last month a letter written to Frederica Mogherini, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, by a group of human rights and journalist organizations expressed concern about yet another extension of the state of emergency in Turkey, saying that “the far-reaching discretionary powers exercised by the Turkish authorities during the nine months of the state of emergency have deeply undermined the rule of law and human rights safeguards.”

“We no longer need to be patient about the hypocritical threat of the European Union. The EU is in a position to decide,” said Erdoğan, speaking on relations with the bloc.

Following a war of words between Ankara and Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Tusk will meet with Turkish President Erdoğan in Brussels on May 25, AFP reported.

Attacking EU countries during his nonstop “yes” campaign ahead of a referendum on April 16, Erdoğan labeled Europe as “the center of Nazism today” and “the alliance of crusaders.”

Erdoğan described the congress as a “resurrection” and “re-establishment” of the AKP.

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