THE LEVANT – Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepared Thursday to choose his successor as prime minister, with expectations high that the man who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade will keep charge as president.
Erdogan has indicated that he plans to maintain tight control of the government by transforming the largely ceremonial presidency. He has said he would employ its seldom-used powers, such as summoning and presiding over Cabinet meetings. Turkey’s first popularly elected president, Erdogan takes office Aug. 28.
Senior officials of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, were meeting with him Thursday to pick a leader whom analysts expect to be loyal to Erdogan. The nominee to succeed Erdogan as party chairman and prime minister is to be confirmed at the party’s extraordinary congress next week.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who has led Turkish foreign policy both as an adviser and as minister since 2003, is reported to be the strongest candidate. Binali Yildirim, a former transport minister and close Erdogan confidant, has also been tipped for the job.
Numan Kurtulmus, a deputy party leader, said Erdogan would make “the last decision, the last assessment.”
“May it be beneficial to our party, to Turkey and to the entire Islamic world,” Kurtulmus told reporters as he went into the meeting.
President Abdullah Gul, who was once considered as a possible candidate for prime minister in a job swap with Erdogan, has been sidelined. He has publicly split with Erdogan, including recently over the government’s attempts to shutdown Twitter and YouTube in Turkey.
Presidents were previously voted in by parliament, but Erdogan – whose party required he step down after three terms – decided to make it an elected post.