Turkish PM meets party leaders, expected to step down

Reports say Ahmet Davutoglu will step down after falling out of favour with the country's all-powerful president

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with officials of his party on Thursday amid reports that he intends to step down after falling out of favour with the country’s all-powerful president.

Davutoglu is expected to step down as premier later this month during an emergency party convention, according to local media reports.

His possible departure comes at a time when Turkey is facing turmoil and an array of security threats. The country, which is vying for EU membership, has witnesses several suicide bombings linked to Islamic State or Kurdish militants.

The premier is scheduled to give a news conference later.

Davutoglu already met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan face-to-face late on Wednesday in an apparently failed bid to smooth things over.

The rift between the president and the premier became painfully obvious last week when the executive committee of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which is dominated by figures close to Erdogan, seized Davutoglu’s powers to appoint local and provincial leaders, further weakening his grip on the party.

But the biggest hint that Davutoglu’s days are numbered came late Sunday when an anonymous Turkish blog titled “Pelican Brief” and believed to have been authored by people close to Erdogan, aired the presidential camp’s alleged grievances with Davutoglu, including not advocating a presidential system — favoured by the president — strongly enough.

Erdogan had hand-picked Davutoglu to succeed him as premier and AKP leader after he was elected president in 2014. Davutoglu was expected to play a backseat role as Erdogan pushed ahead with plans to make the largely ceremonial presidency into an all-powerful position.

Instead, the former professor, adviser to Erdogan and foreign minister, tried to act independently on a range of issues and the two men reportedly grew apart.

Davutoglu proved to be a more moderating force to Erdogan, who has adopted an increasingly authoritarian style of government.

The premier had at best offered half-hearted support to an all-powerful presidential system, which Erdogan has said should be introduced “rapidly.”

The two leaders also differed over 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.