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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Recep Tayyip Erdogan named Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as his successor as prime minister on Thursday, with expectations high that the man who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade will stay in charge once he is president.
Erdogan has indicated that he plans to maintain tight control of the government and wants to transform the largely ceremonial presidency. He has said he intends to employ its seldom-used powers, such as summoning and presiding over Cabinet meetings. As Turkey’s first popularly-elected president, Erdogan takes office Aug. 28.
Erdogan announced after a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party that party leaders had chosen Davutoglu, 55, to replace him as its new chairman and prime minister. Davutoglu, who has steered Turkish foreign policy both as foreign minister and as Erdogan’s adviser since 2003, is expected to be confirmed as party chairman at the party’s extraordinary congress next week.
“If he’s confirmed as chairman … Ahmet Davutoglu will be the candidate for prime minister for the Republic of Turkey’s 62nd government,” Erdogan told members of his party, who then stood up and cheered.
Davutoglu, a former professor of international relations, is considered a strong Erdogan loyalist and was long reported to be Erdogan’s top choice as his successor. Analysts say Erdogan wants to install a friendly prime minister so that he can still largely control the government from behind the scenes.
In an early sign that he would remain loyal to Erdogan, Davutoglu said that if his appointment as prime minister is confirmed, he would stand “like a rock” against those standing in Turkey’s way. His comment came minutes after Erdogan said he hoped that as premier, Davutoglu would press ahead with a crackdown on followers of a moderate Islamic movement led by a U.S.-based cleric. Erdogan accuses the group of attempting to topple the government by orchestrating corruption allegations against members of his inner circle.
Davutoglu is also known as an astute politician capable of 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.
Davutoglu’s record as foreign minister, however, has been a mixed one.
Praised in his early years in office for efforts to befriend Turkey’s old foes and raise the country’s international profile, critics say his “zero problems with neighbors” policy has since unraveled, leaving Turkey with very few allies in the Middle East.
Thursday’s development sidelines President Abdullah Gul, who was once considered a possible candidate for prime minister in a job swap with Erdogan. He has publicly split with Erdogan, including recently over the government’s attempts to shut down Twitter and YouTube in Turkey.