Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced his resignation on Thursday, saying he would not stand again as leader of the ruling AK Party, paving the way for the country’s president Tayyip Erdogan to pursue a tighter grip on power.
“I decided that for the unity of the (ruling party) a change of chairman would be more appropriate. I am not considering running at the May 22 congress,” Davutoglu told the nation following a meeting with executives of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which has dominated Turkish politics since 2002.
Speaking at the AKP’s headquarters in Ankara, Davutoglu listed his accomplishments while in office, underlining that he steered the country through turmoil and terrorist attacks with “an iron will”. He added that he would continue his work for the AKP as an MP and that there should not be any doubts over the stability of the government.
“A strong AKP government will continue to lead for the next four years, and there should not be any doubts concerning safety and stability,” Davutoglu said.
“I am telling our members, up until today I was leading you. From now on, I am among you,” he added.
Davutoglu’s parting plunges Turkey into political uncertainty just as Europe depends on it for help in curbing a migration crisis and as Washington draws on the NATO member’s support in fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Turkey could now face an early general election this year as Erdogan pushes ahead with plans to strengthen the presidency.
Davutoglu and Erdogan differed over several issues including the pre-trial imprisonment of academics and journalists, which Davutoglu opposed, and over the possibility of the resumption of a peace process with the Kurdish rebels, which Erdogan ruled out.
Davutoglu became prime minister in August 2014 when Erdogan moved from the premiership to the presidency, however he had offered only tepid support for Erdogan’s vision, as his departure followed weeks of tensions. His successor is likely to be more willing to back Erdogan’s aim of changing the constitution to create a presidential system, a move that opponents say will bring growing authoritarianism.
“From now on, Turkey’s sole agenda is the presidential system and an early election,” said Mehmet Ali Kulat, head of the pollster Mak Danismanlik, which is seen as close to Erdogan. He forecast an election in October or November.
Erdogan wants Turkey to be ruled by the head of state, a system he sees as a guarantee against the fractious coalition politics that hampered the government in the 1990s. His opponents say this is merely a vehicle for his own ambition.