Turkey’s Erdogan ousts prime minister, solidifies power
ISTANBUL - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan further tightened his grip on the country’s political scene by forcing Ahmet Davutoglu to resign as prime minister and preparing to name a close associate as his successor.
Davutoglu, who served as chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) since taking over as prime minister from Erdogan in 2014, on May 5th announced that he would not be a candidate for the party leadership at a May 22nd extraordinary AKP congress. As the post of AKP chairman is tied to that of prime minister, Davutoglu is also set to quit his government role.
“I am not thinking of running as a candidate at the party congress under the current circumstances,” Davutoglu said in a statement. He said he was proud of his record as prime minister and party chief but felt it was better for the party’s future. Davutoglu said he would hold onto his seat in parliament for the AKP.
Davutoglu stressed he still felt close to Erdogan. “His family is my family,” he said. “His honour is my honour.”
Davutoglu warned against what he called “speculation” about tensions between him and the president and said he had no ill-feeling against anybody. However, Davutoglu underlined that he had never sought a post “without an agreement”.
Howard Eissenstat, an expert on Turkish politics at St Lawrence University in the United States, posted on Twitter that Davutoglu was careful not to burn all bridges with Erdogan despite leaving office against his will. “Davutoglu expresses resentment at his removal but refuses to carry that resentment to Erdogan,” Eissenstat tweeted. “Hurt, but not stupid.”
Erdogan’s move against his prime minister followed weeks of rising tensions with Davutoglu, who was Erdogan’s foreign policy adviser and foreign minister before becoming prime minister 20 months ago.
News of Davutoglu’s dismissal rattled markets already worried about political instability amid signs of problems for the Turkish economy. Erdogan tried to assure Turks and investors that any turbulence would be temporary. Once a prime minister more aligned to the president was in power, the country would stabilise, Erdogan adviser Cemil Ertem told the Turkish NTV news channel. Ertem ruled out snap elections before a scheduled vote in 2019.
No candidate for the AKP chairmanship has yet come forward but observers say Erdogan will pick the next party leader and prime minister himself, even though the constitution defines the presidency as a non-partisan and largely ceremonial post.
Burhan Kuzu, a legal adviser to Erdogan, told the TGRT television station that, while the president might not be the “legal leader” of the AKP and the government, there could be no doubt that he was “the natural leader”.
News reports said Erdogan’s son in-law — Energy Minister Berat Albayrak — is among the candidates for the top posts. Transport Minister Binali Yildirim, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu and Mustafa Sentop, a top AKP official in parliament, have also been named.