ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling party on Thursday confirmed Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as the successor to Recep Tayyip Erdogan as premier and party leader, with both men vowing the handover would herald no change in strategy.
Erdogan, 60, is to be sworn in as president on Thursday and the approval of Davutoglu, 55, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was a key step in a tightly-choreographed succession process.
Analysts expect the changeover at the top will not change Erdogan’s status as Turkey’s undisputed number one, and both men emphasised that a strict continuity would be maintained.
Yet Erdogan rejected suggestions that Davutoglu would simply be a puppet premier, and said the AKP would never be a “one man” party.
In a purely ceremonial vote at a congress a day before Erdogan takes office as president, the AKP overwhelmingly approved Davutoglu, who was the only candidate standing after being nominated by the party executive committee.
Davutoglu and his wife Sare — a practising gynaecologist — then threw red flowers at the thousands of party supporters gathered in the Ankara sports arena.
Erdogan — who has ruled Turkey as premier for over a decade with Islamic-tinted and development-focused policies — will be sworn in as president at 1100 GMT on Thursday after his victory in the August 10 election.
He will take over from Abdullah Gul, a former close comrade and co-founder of the AKP who appears now to have fallen out with the feisty Erdogan and was barely mentioned at the congress.
In a marathon two-hour speech, Erdogan said the government’s strategy would not change with the handover and said the party had “always excluded personal ambitions and arrogance”.
“Names have no importance. Names change today but our essence, our mission, our spirits, our goals and ideals remain in place.”
Erdogan, who has two sons and two daughters, described the party he helped found as his “fifth child” but said the “farewell time” had come.
Under Turkish law, the president should sever all ties with political parties. But Erdogan said the party was not just about one person.
“The AKP will never be a one-man party. It is a party of principles,” he said.
“Our cause will not change tomorrow and it will not be abandoned in the future.”
Erdogan is expected to revamp what has been until now a largely ceremonial post of president into a powerful role, with Davutoglu a loyal ally who will not pose any obstacles.
Erdogan however insisted that Davutoglu would be a figure of real stature and power as prime minister.
“I would like to stress this: Davutoglu is not a caretaker. Everyone should know that.”
In an impassioned speech that sought to shake off his image as a bookish policy wonk, Davutoglu said that there would be no conflict with Erdogan and the two would build a new Turkey “hand in hand”.
“We will build the new Turkey hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. No one can sow the seeds of animosity between comrades.”
Showing his combative side, Davutoglu slammed the anti-government protests last year over the redevelopment of an Istanbul park as an attempt “to destroy the self-confidence that we have instilled in our people”.
He vowed to build a strong Turkey that would flourish and would not collapse like the Ottoman Empire after World War I.
“We will not let Turkey face the big disaster that the Ottoman Empire has faced.”
Davutoglu will now form a new cabinet by Friday, with intense speculation over who will hold the top jobs.
Press reports have tipped the head of Turkey’s intelligence service Hakan Fidan as a possible new foreign minister while there is also huge attention on the future of economic pointman and market favourite Ali Babacan in the government.
Davutoglu, who became foreign minister in 2009, is a controversial figure blamed by some for pursuing an over-ambitious foreign policy that led to the rise of Islamic militants in Syria. AFP