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Turkey ruling party set to agree Davutoglu as PM

AFP , Wednesday 20 Aug 2014
Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkey's Ahmet Davutoglu (Photo: Reuters)
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Turkey's ruling party meets on Thursday to choose a new leader and premier to succeed Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he takes the presidency, with all signs pointing to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as the most likely choice.

The executive committee of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will meet in Ankara to agree a successor for Erdogan, who has transformed Turkey since first becoming prime minister in 2003.

The press has been abuzz for days with reports that Davutoglu was favoured for promotion to be prime minister and outgoing President Abdullah Gul, in comments Tuesday, appeared to leave the issue in no doubt.

"As far I understand, Ahmet Davutoglu will be the next head of government," the outgoing president told the media at his last reception at the presidential palace in Ankara.

"We must all help him with his task. It was I who convinced him to go into politics. I am going to support him," said Gul.

AKP officials however have declined to confirm the choice has been already made. "Everything depends on Mr Erdogan. He has the last word and he will announce the name of his successor," one official told AFP.

Gul himself had been seen as a candidate for the job but commentators believe that the AKP has deliberately timed the succession process to take place before he leaves office so he cannot take part.

The outgoing president was a co-founder of the AKP with Erdogan but strains have become more apparent between the two men, with Gul taking a more moderate line than the combative premier.

The same could not be said of Davutoglu however, a loyal servant of Erdogan who was for long an advisor and then promoted to the job of foreign minister in 2009.

Davutoglu enjoyed an elite Western-style education and is fluent in several languages but emerged as the chief architect and ideologue of Turkey's assertive foreign policy under Erdogan.

Criticised as neo-Ottoman or even neo-Islamic by some academics, the core of Davutoglu's policy has been to make Turkey a world power projecting its influence across the region.

But while Turkey's importance has unquestionably grown in the last years, critics say that the policy has left Ankara isolated and surrounded by crisis-torn countries whose problems are spilling over the border.

The quietly-spoken academic appears to have been groomed for his new role over the last days, making unaccustomed speeches in public meetings in the style of Erdogan.

He is already being introduced in visits around Turkey as the prime minister, media reports have said.

His nomination would pave the way for a wider shake-up of Turkish politics that is expected to follow Erdogan's inauguration on August 28.

Turkish media reports have predicted a cabinet packed with Erdogan allies, in an indication the new president plans to keep a tight control over government.

In a notable move, the head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) Hakan Fidan, a staunch Erdogan ally, is tipped to takeover from Davutoglu as foreign minister.

Closely watched will be the future of Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, the government's economic pointman who markets see as a guarantee of sensible economic policies.

The name of the new prime minister and party leader -- who by AKP tradition is the same person -- will be rubber stamped at an AKP congress on August 27, one day before Erdogan is sworn in.

The congress will take place under the slogan "everyone together for a new Turkey", Turkish media said Wednesday.

It remains unclear what influence Davutoglu will carve out for himself on the domestic scene and many expect Erdogan to remain dominant in his new role.

"On the domestic political scene, Mr Davutoglu's reputation is weak. He has a good reputation but does not have a support network," said Soli Ozel of the Kadir Has university in Istanbul.

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