Turkish President-elect Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he would ask incoming prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu to form a new government on Thursday, and a new Cabinet of ministers would be announced the following day.
Erdogan was speaking outside a congress meeting of the ruling AKP in Ankara, where tens of thousands of people had thronged to hear his final address as party leader after more than a decade at the helm, before he ascends to the presidency.
“God willing, we will give Davutoglu the mandate to form the government tomorrow, and the new Cabinet will be announced on Friday,” Erdogan told a crowd of his ruling AK Party supporters before entering the meeting hall.
The AK Party was set to elect current Foreign Minister Davutoglu as its leader at the congress in an Ankara sports hall later in the day, and Erdogan will appoint him prime minister on Thursday after his inauguration.
AKP members waved Turkish and party flags and cheered as Erdogan arrived at the hall. He greeted them and threw red carnations to the crowd as a song dedicated to him boomed out around the arena.
The heavily choreographed event - complete with films recounting Erdogan's political career - demonstrated the slick party machinery that has helped the AK Party dominate Turkish politics since it first came to power in 2002.
Loyalty and unity
Erdogan will cement his position as modern Turkey's most powerful leader when he is sworn in as president, enabling him to complete a transformation of the country which critics fear will deepen divisions in society.
He has made it clear he wants his party to remain loyal and unified after he hands over the reins as required by the constitution, particularly with parliamentary elections due next year.
Davutoglu's role will be to continue many of Erdogan's policies, including the Kurdish peace process and the fight against the so-called “parallel structure,” whilst delivering electoral success, according to Hatem Ete, director of the Ankara based think tank, SETA.
“The most important item on his agenda will be to ensure that AK Party does not lose votes in this time, or better yet, increases its votes,” Ete said.
The government has been fighting a months-long battle against supporters of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom they accuse of infiltrating and trying to unseat the government by stirring up allegations of corruption.
The appointment of close ally Davutoglu as prime minister is viewed as a sign that Erdogan has little intention of loosening his grip on the day-to-day running of the country as president.
Senior AK Party officials told Reuters they expected the core of the government to remain the same as the party focuses on winning a large enough electoral majority to amend the constitution in the new parliament, likely seeing power handed back to Erdogan as president.
“The main priority is of course to maintain the fundamental structures, but this government will be stronger with some new additions and it will contest the 2015 polls,” one senior official said.