Turkish ruling party to replace PM

Turkish President Erdogan meets with Prime Minister Davutoglu at the Presidential Palace in AnkaraTurkey’s ruling party is set to replace Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at an extraordinary congress in the coming weeks, officials said on Wednesday, signaling the end of his term as premier and plunging the country into political uncertainty.

The decision, confirmed to Reuters by five AK Party officials, came after a meeting of more than 1-1/2 hours between Davutoglu and President Tayyip Erdogan that followed weeks of increasingly public tension between the two men.

Erdogan wants an executive presidency in Turkey to replace the current parliamentary system, a plan for which Davutoglu has offered only lukewarm support. His departure is likely to pave the way for a successor more willing to back Erdogan’s ambition of changing the constitution and strengthening the presidency, a move opponents say will herald growing authoritarianism.

“The president and prime minister reached agreement on the congress … I don’t think Davutoglu will be a candidate again,” one of the officials told Reuters.

The leader of the AKP, which has governed Turkey since 2002, also serves as prime minister. Davutoglu’s likely departure looms as Turkey faces mounting security challenges, with a Kurdish insurgency in its southeast and the spillover of the war in Syria on its southern border.

The European Union is counting on Turkey to help stop migrants streaming into the continent under a landmark accord brokered by Davutoglu, and Washington is drawing on NATO member Ankara’s support in fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The lira TRYTOM=D3 weakened more than 4 percent to 2.976 to the dollar, its weakest since the end of February, as investors balked at the prospect of more uncertainty.

“Davutoglu’s likely early exit as party leader and PM constitutes another episode that show that Erdogan’s dominance over the AKP and the executive is absolute and unchallenged,” said Wolfango Piccoli, head of research at Teneo Intelligence.

“In the short term policy paralysis will prevail and then, once a new party leader is elected, a more incisive effort to amend the constitution could ensue,” he told Reuters.

The AKP official said the congress would be held as soon as May 21 and no later than June 6, the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and that Erdogan was adamant there should be no vacuum of power at the head of government.

Three sources close to the presidency said possible successors included government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag. Transport Minister Binali Yildirim and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, had also been touted as possible names, they said. (Courtesy Reuters)

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