ANKARA - Tayyip Erdogan will cement his position as modern Turkey's most powerful leader when he is sworn in as president on Thursday, advancing his drive to reshape the country but heralding what critics fear will be an increasingly authoritarian rule.
In a final speech to supporters of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Wednesday he spoke of his move from the prime minister's office to the presidential palace as the birth of a new Turkey. But he vowed that the AK's mission to elevate the country as a major regional power would go on unchanged after he left party politics.
Erdogan's victory in Turkey's first popular presidential election this month caps more than a decade as prime minister in which the economy has tripled in dollar terms and the country has carved out a growing, though often controversial, role in the politics of the conflict-torn Middle East.
Opponents warn his ambition to establish an executive presidential system, which will concentrate too much power in the hands of a leader with autocratic instincts and lead the European Union’s candidate country even further from the secular ideals of the republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Erdogan's rhetoric has long played on the divisions between his supporters among Turkey's pious conservatives and a Western-facing, largely secular class suspicious of his Islamic ideals. In his farewell party address, he tried to strike a more conciliatory note.