Ankara (AFP) - Turkey's ruling party meets on Thursday to choose a new leader and premier to succeed incoming president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu the overwhelming favourite for the job.
The executive committee of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will meet in Ankara at 1100 GMT 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 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," Gul told the media at his last reception at the presidential palace in Ankara.
"We must all help him with his task," he said.
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 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".
- Pro-Erdogan cabinet expected -
Davutoglu has been loyal 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 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.
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 latent for years such as chairing cabinet meetings.
Critics see Davutoglu as an Erdogan yes-man, inexperienced in domestic politics, who will carry out his master's bidding as Turkey moves to one-man rule.
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.