ANKARA: Turkey’s prime minister will tour several European countries next month, a government source said on Tuesday, as he reaches out to expat Turkish voters ahead of a possible run for the presidency.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning to visit Germany, France and the Netherlands in May, the source said. Each has a large Turkish population that he is hoping to court ahead of presidential elections in August.
Erdogan, who has been prime minister since 2003, is widely expected to run for the presidency although he has yet to announce his candidacy.
For the first time, some 2.6 million Turks living abroad — 1.5 million in Germany alone — will be able to cast their votes.
Before Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government passed a law in 2012, only five to seven percent of Turks abroad were able to vote in elections, according to electoral authorities, and had to travel to customs offices at Turkey’s borders to do so.
The tour will not be official state visits, and it is not yet clear if Erdogan will meet with any European leaders.
Erdogan is in his third term as prime minister, the maximum allowed under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rules. It is thought he would expand the largely ceremonial role of the president to give it greater US-style executive powers if elected.
The premier is coming off the back of a resounding victory for the AKP in local elections last month that showed that a recent spate of corruption allegations have done little to dent his support across the country.
The first round of the presidential vote is scheduled for Aug. 10 and a second round, if necessary, will take place on Aug. 24.
President Abdullah Gul, a cofounder of the AKP, on Friday ruled out a Russia-style job swap with Erdogan and said he had no firm plans yet for his political future.