ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s ruling party convened on Wednesday to confirm Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as its new chairman and prime minister-designate, to replace Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he becomes president – a position he has pledged to transform from a ceremonial post to one of real power.
Erdogan hand-picked his stalwart ally to succeed him and the 55-year old is standing unopposed for chairman of the Justice and Development Party at its extraordinary congress. Erdogan, Turkey’s first popularly elected president, is to be sworn in Thursday.
Davutoglu is expected to play a largely backseat role, allowing Erdogan – who has dominated Turkish politics for over a decade – to keep a grip on the running of the country. Although the office of president is mainly ceremonial, Erdogan has said he will activate its seldom-used powers, such as summoning, and presiding over Cabinet meetings.
Erdogan told delegates that he would appoint Davutoglu to form the new government immediately after his inauguration ceremony and that a new government would be in place by Friday.
Davutoglu has steered Turkish foreign policy as Erdogan’s chief adviser since 2003 and as foreign minister since 2009. Though he won praise in his early years for efforts to forge closer ties with Turkey’s old foes, detractors say his “zero problems with neighbors” policy has since unraveled, leaving Turkey with very few allies in the Middle East.
Davutoglu’s main task will be to keep the party together after Erdogan – Turkish history has two examples of former prime ministers who sought to maintain control of parliament after moving to the presidency, only to see their parties collapse.
He will also be tasked with leading the party to victory in parliamentary elections in June 2015, when Erdogan hopes to secure a strong majority that would allow the party to rewrite the constitution and change Turkey’s political system to a presidential one.