ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday rejected claims that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is set to replace him as prime minister, would merely do his bidding as he continues to rule Turkey from behind the scenes.
His comments during a farewell speech to delegates of his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, come amid widespread expectations that Davutoglu would take more of a backseat role and that Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for over a decade, would maintain his grip on government.
Although the office of president is mainly ceremonial, Erdogan has indicated he wants to transform the position to an executive one. He has said he will activate its seldom-used powers, such as summoning, and presiding over Cabinet meetings.
"The AKP is not a one-man party, it never has been and never will be," Erdogan told party delegates who convened to confirm Davutoglu, 55, as its new chairman and prime minister-designate.
Erdogan nevertheless, suggested that Davutoglu would not veer from the goals he has set for Turkey, saying: "The only things that are changing today are the names."
Erdogan, Turkey's first popularly-elected president, is to be sworn in Thursday.
Davutoglu would be asked to form the new government immediately after his inauguration ceremony and the new Cabinet would be established by Friday, Erdogan said.
Davutoglu has steered Turkish foreign policy as Erdogan's chief adviser since 2003 and as foreign minister since 2009. Though he won praise in his early years for efforts to forge closer ties with Turkey's old foes, detractors say his "zero problems with neighbors" policy has since failed, leaving Turkey with very few allies in the Middle East.
Davutoglu's main task will be to keep the party together after Erdogan. He will also be tasked with 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 change the constitution and change Turkey's political system to a presidential one.