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Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu to step down as ruling party leader

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (AFP)

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu plans to relinquish his position as the leader of the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) amid differences with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, officials say.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the decision was made following a Wednesday meeting between Davutoglu and Erdogan who have been at odds over the last few months.

Erdogan is pushing to establish a presidential system in place of the current parliamentary system based on the claim that the country cannot be run by two strongmen. Davutoglu has, however, asserted that such a system would eat away at his authority.

Official sources say Davutoglu’s decision to set aside his position as AKP leader, who also serves as the prime minster, was evident in his call for a special political convention to be held in a few weeks. Reuters says five AKP officials confirmed the decision.

"The president and prime minister reached agreement on the congress ... I don't think Davutoglu will be a candidate again," said one of the officials, noting that the congress will convene between May 21 and June 6.

A handout picture released by Turkish presidential press office on May 4, 2016, shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during their meeting in Ankara. (AFP)

The duo have also been at loggerheads over the EU’s offer to provide Turks with visa-free travel across the Schengen area in exchange for Ankara stemming the refugee inrush into Europe. The premier has backed the plan but Erdogan has not shown as much eagerness.

The director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute, Soner Cagaptay, says removing Davutoglu is the next step in Erdogan’s plans for “hollowing out” of Turkish institutions as he already controls the military and parliament.  

“It shows how much power has been massed in one person’s hands,” he said, adding that the move also allows “Erdogan to distance himself from some of his failed policies that can be attributed to Davutoglu.” 

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