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Foreign Minister Davutoglu to be new Turkish PM: Erdogan

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attends a meeting in Ankara on August 20, 2014. AFP Photo/Adem Altan

ANKARA: Turkey's ruling party on Thursday chose Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to be its new leader and prime minister, to replace Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he takes the presidency next week.

Erdogan - who has dominated Turkey's political scene for 11 years as prime minister - announced the decision after an executive committee meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to decide on his successor.

The press has been abuzz for days with reports that Davutoglu was favoured for promotion to become prime minister under Erdogan's presidency, which begins on August 28.

Davutoglu's nomination will be rubber-stamped by an extraordinary congress of the AKP on August 27 and he will take office a day later.

"The AKP's candidate for the party leadership on August 27 is foreign minister and member of parliament for Konya, Ahmet Davutoglu," Erdogan said to cheers from the party elite.

"I believe our candidate for party leadership and prime minister will realise the ideal of a new Turkey and the AKP's targets for 2023," when modern Turkey celebrates its 100th anniversary, Erdogan said.

Davutoglu has been a loyal servant to Erdogan as an advisor before being promoted to the job of foreign minister in 2009.

He 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 pan-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 the policy has left Ankara isolated and surrounded by crisis-torn countries whose problems are spilling over the border.

"One would wish that the office of prime minister is built upon achievements, not failures. Today Davutoglu is a man regarded more with criticism than praise," said Aykan Erdemir, lawmaker of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

As president, Erdogan is widely expected to wield great influence over his party in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary polls.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu told Today's Zaman newspaper that Turkey was heading to a "new era of puppet prime ministers."

Erdogan has vowed to break with the tradition of ceremonial presidencies in Turkey and be a powerful head of state who will use powers that have lain dormant for years such as chairing cabinet meetings.

Davutoglu's nomination paves 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 take over from Davutoglu as foreign minister.

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

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

Gul 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 extent of his bitterness was hinted at on Tuesday by his wife Hayrunnisa who complained her husband had been the victim of "many falsehoods and a great deal of disrespect".

 

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