Leader of Turkey’s main opposition has slammed the ouster of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as a “palace coup” aimed at consolidating the president’s power.
“Davutoglu’s resignation should not be perceived as an internal party issue, all democracy supporters must resist this palace coup,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who heads the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said at a Thursday presser.
Earlier, Davutolgu said at a news conference that he would not seek a new term as prime minister and head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The announcement came after a gathering of the party’s central executive committee amid months-long rumors of tensions between Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The premier, however, stopped short of criticizing the Turkish president and stressed his loyalty to Erdogan, who is the AKP’s founding father and most influential figure.
He also ruled out the rumors of uneasy relations with the president and pledged to remain an AKP lawmaker.
Davutoglu added that he would step down after an extraordinary meeting of party leaders, which is expected to be held on May 22.
Among the potential successors to the prime minister are Transport Minister Binali Yildirim and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, both close to Erdogan.
The developments come as Erdogan has long been under fire by critics for pushing to replace the current parliamentary system of government with a presidential one, and thus, change his ceremonial role into an executive chief.
Opposition parties do not support the presidential system envisaged by Erdogan, fearing he is pushing Turkey to the brink of authoritarianism.
Erdogan set for tighter grip on power
Erdogan had previously criticized his ally Davutoglu for remarks he made about Turkey’s potential amendments to the presidential system, saying he should not forget how he became prime minister.
On Thursday, the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper criticized the Thursday summit for failing to find a solution to the party row, while “Erdogan put a full stop to the conflict between them.”
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute, said the move was the next stage in a “hollowing out” of Turkish institutions by Erdogan, who already controls the army and parliament.
“It shows how much power has been massed in one person’s hands,” said the analyst, adding that Erdogan was now seeking tighter grip on power than anyone in the country’s modern democratic history.
The shake-up comes at a critical time as Ankara is engaged in heavy battles with Kurdish militants in the southeast as well as Iraqi soil. Turkey is also grappling with an influx of Syrian refugees into its borders.