Ankara: Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Saturday said Turkey needed a single-party government to fight "terror", as the country prepares for snap November polls against the background of the army`s relentless campaign against Kurdish militants.
Davutoglu sought to stir the faithful at the congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara with a rousing speech presenting the AKP as the natural party of power after it lost its overall majority for the first time in June 7 elections.
Former foreign minister Davutoglu, who became premier when Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president in August 2014, is under huge pressure to restore the majority and rumours even circulated he could have faced a leadership challenge at the congress.
"A single-party government needs to be ensured to fight both the terror plague and economic challenges," said Davutoglu.
The AKP won three decisive general election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011 but in the June election the party lost its overall majority for the first time since coming to power in 2002.
The result wrecked Erdogan`s dreams of a powerful presidency with full executive powers, as a pro-Kurdish party made a major breakthrough to secure seats in the parliament.
Erdogan did not attend the congress but his two increasingly high-profile daughters -- Esra and Sumeyye -- sat in the front row.
"We are heading towards November 1 elections on behalf of a permanent government, sustainable development and rights and freedom for everyone," said Davutoglu.
After the June elections, Davutoglu held inconclusive talks with opposition parties to form a coalition government -- an unpalatable alternative for the president.
Amid the political uncertainty, the government has waged a self-declared "war on terror" against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers` Party (PKK) in the southeast and in northern Iraq.
Davutoglu`s speech was frequently interrupted by party supporters shouting slogans such as: "Martyrs never die, the homeland is indivisible."
No music was allowed at the congress in respect for the dozens of Turkish security forces killed in the unrest, party officials said.This was the first AKP congress ever held in the absence of the party`s co-founder Erdogan, who served as premier from 2003-2014 and whose popularity shows no signs of fading among party supporters.
Commentators suggested Erdogan`s influence was clearly apparent on the congress, with some of his closest allies on the new list of members of the AKP central executive committee.
These included his son-in-law Berat Albayrak (Esra`s husband), one of the president`s top legal advisors Burhan Kuzu and former interior minister Efkan Ala.
"There`s no doubt that one person weighed heavily on the event -- his name is Recep Tayyip Erdogan," Turkey`s Fox TV correspondent Sedat Bozkurt told AFP, saying that "party loyalists... were replaced by Erdogan loyalists."
Erdogan`s hand was also detected behind well-sourced press reports suggesting his ally, former transport minister Binali Yildirim, could challenge Davutoglu for the party leadership at Saturday`s congress.
In the event no challenge materialised, with the speculation seen as a warning shot across Davutoglu`s bows should the party come up short on November 1.
In the event, Davutoglu won all valid votes from 1,353 delegates as the only candidate and was re-elected party chief. Erdogan rapidly sent him a congratulatory telegram.
"Turkey`s next 10 to 20 years will be guaranteed if, God willing, a new government is formed on November 1 again built on the AKP`s broad vision," Davutoglu said in his acceptance speech.
Former president Abdullah Gul, one of the party`s co-founders who last year fell out with Erdogan, did not appear at the congress although he was invited by the prime minister.
But Gul also sent a message, urging the AKP to "act with common sense... without straying away from its identity and ideals."
Another AKP heavyweight, former deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc, stirred up controversy on the eve of the congress when he claimed in a television interview that the party had lost its "we" spirit and turned into "I."
Meanwhile, the leader of Palestinian militant movement Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, was among the foreign guests, receiving big applause from the crowd.