Erdogan vows no change ahead of Turkey handover

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday pledged that the policies of his ruling party would not change as he prepared to take the presidency and hand the job of premier to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 27, 2014, 19:50 PM IST

Ankara: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday pledged that the policies of his ruling party would not change as he prepared to take the presidency and hand the job of premier to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Erdogan gave a keynote farewell speech to Turkey`s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as it held a congress to confirm Davutoglu as the new party leader and premier when he becomes president.

The Turkish strongman rejected suggestions that Davutoglu would simply be a puppet premier and said that the AKP would never be a "one man" party.

The vast congress, which mustered some 40,000 people at an Ankara sports arena, was a key step in a tightly-choreographed process to ensure the succession goes smoothly.

Erdogan -- who has ruled Turkey as premier for over a decade with Islamic-tinted and development-focused policies -- will be sworn in as president on Thursday after his victory in the August 10 election.

In a marathon two-hour speech, Erdogan said the government`s strategy would not change with the handover and said the party had "always excluded personal ambitions and arrogance".

"Names have no importance. Names change today but our essence, our mission, our spirits, our goals and ideals remain in place."

Erdogan, who has two sons and two daughters, described the party he helped found as his "fifth child" but said the "farewell time" had come.

Under Turkish law, the president should sever all ties with political parties. But Erdogan said the party was not just about one person.

"The AKP will never be a one-man party. It is a party of principles," he said.

"Our cause will not change tomorrow and it will not be abandoned in the future."The congress is a largely ceremonial affair with Davutoglu the only candidate for party leader and premier after his candidacy was agreed by the party`s executive committee last week.

It will make a formal show of voting on his candidacy later in the day.

Erdogan entered the congress with his wife Emine to a rock star-style welcome, throwing red carnations to the crowds and a pop song booming out with the chorus "Recep Tayyip Erdogan". 

The slogan of the congress "all together for a new Turkey" emphasises Erdogan`s ambition to transform the country into an economically-booming world power.

Erdogan, 60, is expected to revamp what has been until now a largely ceremonial post of president into a powerful role, with Davutoglu a loyal ally who will not pose any obstacles.

"This is not a change of mission, it is just a change of names," Erdogan said in an outdoor morning speech in Ankara before heading into the congress.

"This is not a farewell. We will continue to serve our people from Edirne to Hakkari," referring to cities at opposite ends of Turkey close to the borders with Greece and Iraq.

In his speech to the congress, Erdogan however insisted that Davutoglu would be a figure of real stature and power as prime minister.

"I would like to stress this: Davutoglu is not a caretaker. Everyone should know that."

Erdogan also said that Davutoglu, 55, will form a new cabinet by Friday, with intense speculation over who will hold the top jobs.

Press reports have tipped the head of Turkey`s intelligence service Hakan Fidan as a possible new foreign minister while there is also huge attention on the future of economic pointman and market favourite Ali Babacan in the government. 

Davutoglu, who became foreign minister in 2009, is a controversial figure blamed by some for pursuing an over-ambitious foreign policy that led to the rise of Islamic militants in Syria.

Erdogan boasted of the success of the AKP in turning Turkey into a fast-growing emerging market after the chaos of its 2001 economic crisis.

"When we took office, there were dark clouds over Turkey, but today we have an economy that the whole world admires," he said.