ANKARA, Turkey: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced his resignation on Thursday, paving the way for the country’s president to pursue a tighter grip on power.
“I decided that for the unity of the (ruling party) a change of chairman would be more appropriate. I am not considering running at the May 22 congress,” Davutoglu told the nation.
Davutoglu, who had fallen out with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced he was stepping aside following a meeting with executives of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which has dominated Turkish politics since 2002.
The decision is not effective immediately. The party will hold an emergency convention May 22 to select a new party leader who would also replace the premier.
Davutoglu indicated he did not plan to resign from the party, saying he would “continue the struggle” as a ruling party legislator. He also pledged loyalty to Erdogan, saying the president’s honor was his honor, and suggested he would not be a party to any efforts to divide the party
“I feel no reproach, anger or resentment against anyone,” Davutoglu said.
The shake-up is seen as the outcome of irreconcilable differences between Erdogan, who would like to see the country transition to a presidential system, and his once-trusted adviser. It comes a day after Davutoglu’s government scored a victory of sorts, with the European Union’s executive commission recommending approval of a deal to give Turkish citizens the right to travel to Europe without visas.
After being elected president in 2014, Erdogan chose Davutoglu to succeed him as premier and leader of the AKP party. Davutoglu was expected to play a backseat role as Erdogan pushed ahead with plans to make the largely ceremonial presidency into an all-powerful position.
But the former professor, foreign minister and adviser to Erdogan tried to act independently on a range issues and often proved to be a more moderating force to Erdogan, who has adopted an increasingly authoritarian style of government.
Crisis talks between the former political allies dragged out for nearly two hours late Wednesday but clearly failed to resolve their differences.
Divisions between the Erdogan and Davutoglu camps first spilled into the open over the conflict with Kurdish militants in the southeast.
Erdogan took issue with Davutoglu after he spoke of the possibility of resuming peace talks with the PKK if it withdraws its armed fighters from Turkish territory. Erdogan said in a speech that it was out of the question for the peace process to restart, saying military operations would continue until the very last rebel is killed and the PKK threat is removed.
More fissures were apparent over Davutoglu’s opposition to the pre-trial detention of journalists accused of spying and academics accused of voicing support for the PKK. Erdogan spurned Davutoglu and even suggested that anyone deemed to be supportive of extremists should be stripped of citizenship.
Crucially, Davutoglu gave only half-hearted support to a powerful presidential system, which Erdogan wanted to see “rapidly” introduced.