Erdogan names loyal ally Davutoglu as new Turkey PM

Fulya Ozerkan
AFPAugust 21, 2014
Turkey's president-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after he announced Davutoglu as new chairman of his ruling AKP party and new prime minister, in Ankara on August 21, 2014
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Turkey's president-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after he announced Davutoglu as new chairman of his ruling AKP party and new prime minister, in Ankara on August 21, 2014 (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

Ankara (AFP) - Turkey's president-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday named Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to succeed him as ruling party leader and prime minister, promoting an ally who is expected to show unstinting loyalty to the new head of state.

Erdogan -- who has dominated Turkey's political scene for 11 years as prime minister -- is to be inaugurated as president next week after his election victory earlier this month.

Davutoglu immediately vowed that "no seeds of discord" could be sown between him and Erdogan, who wants to rule as a powerful head of state and is set to remain Turkey's undisputed number one.

Erdogan announced the decision after a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, to cheers from the party elite and a blast of Turkish folk music.

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 when Erdogan is inaugurated.

"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.

Heaping praise on Davutoglu, he vowed that the AKP would stay unified as it prepares for legislative elections in 2015.

"We are passing through a very important test. The upcoming week is very important, as well as the long process that will begin afterwards," said Erdogan.

"We will not make our enemies happy."

- 'Stand together' -

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.

His loyalty has never been in question and Davutoglu's first comments after being named indicated there would be no splits between his future government and president Erdogan.

"I assure you that our party will continue to stand together. No seeds of discord can be planted between you and me, Mr President," he said.

"This restoration movement which we started 12 years ago will continue without any interruption," he added, referring to the period since the AKP first came to power in 2002.

- 'Puppet prime minister?' -

Opponents blasted the choice, saying that Davutoglu would be no more than a puppet of Erdogan and the promotion was an unjustified reward for a disastrous stint as foreign minister.

"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.

Outgoing President Abdullah Gul had been seen as a candidate for the premiership but had the door slammed shut on him in what many saw as ruthless humilation by his enemies in the AKP.

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".