Turkey’s Erdogan ousts prime minister, solidifies power

Sunday 08/05/2016
Davutoglu walking off stage at end of news conference

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.