Turkish premier quits as Erdogan tightens grip

Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters that he would not utter a 'single word' from his former boss, President Erdogan

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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.

Davutoglu, who had fallen out with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his long-standing ally, 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.

Erdogan was a co-founder and most prominent leader of the AKP, before stepping down when he became president in 2014.

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.

Despite the rift between him and President Erdogan, Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara that he bore his former boss no ill-will.

“No one heard or will ever hear a single word from my mouth, from my tongue or my mind against our president,” he said, according to AFP.

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu left, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands before a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. (AP)
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu left, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands before a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. (AP)

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.

Uncertain bloc

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.

Meanwhile, the European Union is unsure how the departure of Turkey’s prime minister will affect the deal he struck with the EU to curb migration, the EU’s foreign affairs chief said on Thursday, as Brussels watched events in Ankara with unease.

“It’s a bit too early to define if it will have implications and in that case of what kind,” Federica Mogherini said during a visit to Kosovo, Reuters reported.

“We will obviously discuss this [Davutoglu's resignation] first of all with the Turkish authorities and define together how to move forward.”

(With the Associated Press, AFP and Reuters)