* Davutoglu seen as loyal to president-elect Erdogan
* Erdogan says battle with Gulen a priority
* Kurdish peace process, new constitution also a focus
(Adds quotes, analyst comment, details)
By Gulsen Solaker
ANKARA, Aug 21 Turkish president-elect Tayyip
Erdogan named Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as his future
prime minister on Thursday and said a power struggle with a
U.S.-based cleric, a Kurdish peace process and a new
constitution would be his top priorities.
Erdogan said the ruling AK Party's executive board had
agreed to nominate Davutoglu as its next leader and, by default,
his future premier. The decision must now be endorsed in a party
vote next Wednesday, but is unlikely to be opposed.
"If delegates at the congress elect Davutoglu, then he will
be the prime minister," Erdogan told a news conference.
Erdogan's victory in the country's first direct ballot for
head of state on Aug. 10 marked a turning point for Turkey,
taking the European Union candidate nation and NATO member a
step closer to the presidential system he has long coveted.
He has made no secret of his ambition to change the
constitution and bolster the powers of the presidency, a move
opponents fear will herald an increasingly authoritarian rule.
"The new constitution is Turkey's primary concern. I know
that Mr Davutoglu has a high sensitivity in this respect,"
Erdogan said after the AK board meeting.
He said Davutoglu's determination to battle the "parallel
state", a term he uses for Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen's
network of followers, had been a key factor in his nomination.
Erdogan accuses Gulen's sympathisers of infiltrating
institutions including the police and judiciary in an effort to
seize the levers of state power, a struggle which has weighed on
his final months as prime minister and seen him purge thousands
of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.
His actions have raised concern about judicial independence
and drawn criticism from the European Union.
"Be it the struggle against the parallel structure or the
(Kurdish) peace process, do not doubt that I will be supporting
Mr Davutoglu," Erdogan said.
The peace process with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
militant group, aimed at ending a three-decade insurgency, has
been one of Erdogan's biggest achievements in recent years, with
hostilities largely dying down since a March 2013 ceasefire.
Events in northern Iraq, where PKK fighters have rushed to
the assistance of Kurdish peshmerga forces battling the advance
of Islamic State militants, has given the process added urgency.
Erdogan will step down as leader of the AK when he is
inaugurated next week, as required by the constitution, but has
made clear that he wants the party he co-founded more than 10
years ago to remain loyal and unified.
Davutoglu, 55, an academic who has served as foreign
minister for the past five years, rose to political prominence
under Erdogan and is regarded as one of his closest allies.
"Erdogan is pretty confident of Davutoglu's loyalty, and
Davutoglu is a candidate whom Erdogan believes has strong
popular communication skills," said Sinan Ulgen, head of the
Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul.
Davutoglu's profile has risen sharply at home and abroad as
foreign minister, initially on the back of his then-praised
"zero problems with neighbours" policy and more recently as
Erdogan's right-hand man at AK Party rallies.
He has overseen foreign policy at a turbulent time for the
Middle East. Wars in neighbouring Iraq and Syria and the Arab
Spring uprisings caused his "zero problems" policy to crumble,
with ties to Egypt, Syria, Israel, Iraq and Iran all degraded.
Davutoglu is expected to appeal to a newer generation of
Erdogan loyalists within the AK Party, which was founded in 2001
as a coalition of conservative religious Muslims, nationalists
and centre-right elements.
His ability to garner support among core AK voters will be
pivotal if he is to lead the party to a stronger parliamentary
majority in a general election next June, vital to Erdogan's
chances of pushing through the constitutional change he needs to
bolster the powers of the presidency.
"Davutoglu is not going to be a puppet, he's going to have
his own personality," said Galip Dalay, a political researcher
at the Ankara-based think-tank SETA. "But I cannot remember a
single time when he and Erdogan have had a serious policy
disagreement. Their vision for Turkey is very close."
(Additional reporting by Jonny Hogg in Ankara, Ece Toksabay and
Selin Bucak in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Jonny
Hogg; Editing by Mark Heinrich)