* Davutoglu replaces Erdogan as AK Party leader
* Erdogan to be sworn in as president on Thursday
* New cabinet set to bolster Erdogan allies
(Adds Davutoglu voted in as party leader)
By Gulsen Solaker and Orhan Coskun
ANKARA, Aug 27 In a farewell speech to
supporters of his AK Party, Turkish president-elect Tayyip
Erdogan said its mission to reshape the nation would go on after
he left party politics and took office as head of state.
Erdogan's supporters see him as a hero, restoring religious
values to public life long dominated by the secular ideals of
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who founded the modern republic in 1923.
Critics, including Western-facing, secular Turks, fear an
increasingly authoritarian state.
Erdogan, who is due to be inaugurated as president on
Thursday, said today was the birth of a new Turkey.
He dismissed suggestions that a new cabinet led by incoming
prime minister and new AK Party leader Ahmet Davutoglu would be
a "caretaker" government and he made clear its priorities would
not deviate from the path he had set as premier.
"What is changing today is the form, not the essence. The
mission which our party has assumed, the spirit of its cause,
its goals and ideals are not changing," Erdogan said in his last
speech as leader of the movement he co-founded 13 years ago.
Erdogan forged the AK party as a coalition of conservative
religious Muslims, nationalists and reforming centre-right
elements in 2001 in what was later heralded as a potential model
for political Islam.
Under the constitution, Erdogan must cut his ties to the
party as president and sceptics question how tightly it can hold
together without his rigid leadership.
Thousands of AK faithful attended the party congress in
Ankara and thousands more watched the heavily choreographed
event, which opened with a film charting Erdogan's political
career, on large screens under blazing sunshine outside.
Foreign Minister Davutoglu was the only candidate for
Erdogan's replacement as party leader, winning with 1,382 votes.
The remaining six votes were ruled invalid.
Davutoglu took the podium to say Turkey needed a new
constitution with a liberal character to replace a text born of
a 1980 military coup. This would introduce the executive
presidency Erdogan openly covets.
"Erdogan's legacy is our honour and will be defended to the
end," Davutoglu said in his speech.
He promised to keep the party united, press ahead with a
Kurdish peace process, and maintain Turkey's efforts towards
European Union membership.
Erdogan has made clear he intends to stay politically active
and wield greater power than predecessors whose role was largely
"A president's duty is not to obstruct the government but to
open the way for it," he said, in an apparent bid to reassure
Erdogan said earlier he would ask Davutoglu to form a new
government on Thursday and the cabinet would be announced on
The current economic team, including Deputy Prime Minister
Ali Babacan and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, is expected to
remain largely intact, while intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, a
close Erdogan confidante, and EU minister Mevlut Cavusoglu are
leading contenders for foreign minister.
Erdogan aide Yalcin Akdogan was also expected to take up a
position in cabinet, possibly as a deputy prime minister, while
AK deputy chairman Mustafa Sentop is seen as a candidate for
justice minister, senior officials have said.
Davutoglu's role, besides continuing many of Erdogan's core
policies, will also be to deliver success in a parliamentary
election next June, according to Hatem Ete, director of the
Ankara-based think-tank SETA.
A stronger majority would boost the party's chances of
changing the constitution and establishing the presidential
system Erdogan desires.
"The most important item on his agenda will be to ensure
that the AK Party does not lose votes in this time, or better
yet, increases its votes," Ete said.
Davutoglu also repeated that fighting the "parallel state",
a term senior officials use to describe supporters of U.S.-based
Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, would remain a priority.
Erdogan's government accuses Gulen's network of followers,
who wield influence in the police and judiciary, of infiltrating
state institutions and trying to unseat the government with
street protests last summer and a corruption scandal which
erupted in December.
(Additional reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Ece Toksabay;
Writing by Daren Butler and Jonny Hogg; Editing by Nick
Tattersall and Ralph Boulton)