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Turkey’s Arinc Says Party Leadership ’Open’ After Erdogan

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the leadership of the governing Islamist-rooted party is “open to anyone,” fueling speculation that the search for a successor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on as the premier prepares for a presidential bid.

The comment came as Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party prepares for a Sept. 30 Congress in Ankara at which the prime minister is set to be re-elected for what must be his final term as chairman under current party rules. Erdogan is widely expected to run for the country’s presidency, an above-party post, in 2014.

Erdogan told NTV television in an interview late yesterday that he plans to overhaul the party’s administration at the congress. A number of regional leaders including Egypt’s Mohamed Mursi have been invited to the event, the party has said.

Asked whether Suleyman Soylu or Numan Kurtulmus, two veteran politicians who recently joined Justice and Development, might replace Erdogan, Arinc said positions in the party are open to anyone as long as they are loyal to its principles, the state-run Anatolia agency reported. Erdogan and Kurtulmus attended Friday prayers together in Ankara today, Hurriyet newspaper said.

Erdogan is seeking people “who he can trust and influence” after his departure, said Fadi Hakura, an analyst at Chatham House research institute in London. Seventy-three party lawmakers, including Erdogan and Arinc, will not be eligible to stand for parliament again in 2015 because the party’s rules limit lawmakers to three terms, Hakura said.

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